Baptism of the Lord
January 12, 2020
I have never been a big fan of poetry. Maybe because it usually takes a good deal of work to understand and appreciate the message the poet is communicating. But every now and again, I run across a line of poetry that really captures my attention. I memorize it and ponder its meaning; and, if I’m fortunate, the message hits me sometime later.
And so it happened that during the past year, I heard and took to heart a “pearl of wisdom” by a poet named Kaveh Akbar, who wrote: I live in the gulf between what I have been given and what I have received.
The poet’s message hit home as I pondered not the poem, but today’s Gospel.
Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River, the second of God’s dramatic gestures revealing Jesus Christ as The Eternal Word made flesh, is reported by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What isn’t made clear is who exactly heard God speak this profound introduction: This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.
The earliest report is from Mark who adds the words: LISTEN TO HIM! The command would imply that all those gathered on the shore heard the heavenly voice. This is where the wisdom of the poem proves useful. There is a gulf between what is given and what is received. Salvation history is filled with examples of God GIVING and humankind not RECEIVING.
On certain occasions, there has been a failure to RECEIVE what God has GIVEN because of ignorance or obstinance. How often do we close our ears, our minds, or our hearts to what God is GIVING to us? How about the times we have “selective hearing” and RECEIVE only that which we choose? On other occasions, however, God’s message has been RECEIVED loud and clear, but totally rejected. So, it’s interesting to ponder who heard the heavenly voice that day at the Jordan River and what they did with the message they were GIVEN.
But a more personal and far more important question to ponder is this: Do I fully RECEIVE and put to use what was GIVEN me at my baptism?
We live in the gulf between the new life in the Spirit we are GIVEN in Baptism and the eternal life we hope to RECEIVE…and we will RECEIVE in its fullness…if we use what we have been given, to live here and now as children of God, in whom God is well pleased!