I know I was baptized. I know there were promises made on my behalf. I know I have renewed these promises according to a rote formula on many occasions, and annually at the Easter Eucharist. However, when I reflect on the Baptism of Jesus in the light of Mark’s account and the presentation of the servant in Isaiah 42, I see an energy, an urgency, a call and a thrust. If I can understand my Baptism in the same way, then there is nothing rote about it.
Isaiah’s servant is presented with these words: “My chosen one with whom I am well pleased.” Mark’s account of the Baptism concludes with these words: “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” The Gospel makes clear the link between Jesus and the servant of Isaiah. We have come to know the servant as a reference to the Messiah, whom we know as Jesus. From other Gospel accounts we have come to understand that the mission of Jesus, launched at the Baptism, and that laid out for the servant are the same. Furthermore we read that God has placed God’s Spirit in the servant, that same Spirit of God which descended on Jesus when he emerged from the waters of Baptism.
That same Spirit is ours also, as we too emerge from the waters of Baptism. Its coming has not been weakened or watered down through centuries of use, or ritual formulae. It comes with an energy and an urgency. We read in the Markan account that the heavens were torn open for the Spirit to descend on Jesus in the form of a dove. God said to the servant of Isaiah, “I have grasped you by the hand.” One might grasp the hand of another to pull the other out of harm. A skater or a dancer may grasp the hand of a partner to lead the other in an intricate move, never slackening that grasp.
That is the grasp of God, dancing us through the thrust of our Baptismal call. That call and thrust is set out for the servant in Isaiah when God says, “I have called you for the victory of justice.” The same call is ours. So we emerge from the waters of Baptism to the dance of justice. It take us through the deserts of deprivation, into the darkness of people’s hopelessness, around the twists and turns of economic greed, through the wastelands of violence. And as we dance, we grasp the hand of a sister and a brother to lead them in to the communal dance where justice will have the victory, all the time remembering that we have been grasped by the hand of our God, who is our partner in every step.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP