All of us at one time or another, and perhaps many, many times in our life have gathered as part of a large crowd waiting with excitement to see something spectacular in the sky. It may have been on a New Years Eve or perhaps the Fourth of July but we waited to see the spectacle of the colorful fireworks display the dark sky suddenly filled with marvelous colors and patterns that make us utter our ‘Oohs and Ahs’ so pleasantly surprised at such beautiful wonders in the sky. We might even have asked ourselves or those we were with, ‘how do they do that?’ Always, something so wonderful that grabs our attention and delight.
In today’s gospel the writer Mark gives us a spectacle in the sky in the words of today’s gospel when he directs our attention to something that takes place right after Jesus comes out of the water having been baptized by John. He writes for us “on coming out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heaven, “You are my Beloved Son: with you I am well pleased.” Well, if that doesn’t beat all fireworks I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what does.
There is some mystery attached to this great event because we don’t know how many people were there who saw this spectacle, nor do we know how they reacted to it. But thanks be to God that Mark, in writing his gospel account included this intimate event of the baptism of Jesus and this spectacle of how the heavens opened and God spoke through the clouds and gave his seal of approval to both the ritual of the baptism of his Son and his proclamation that he is well pleased with this early moment in the life of his Son’s public ministry.
We can wonder at this spectacle, as well we should, recognizing it for what it is and take to our hearts what was spoken for our benefit and belief. That’s the event of the Baptism of the Lord. How long it took for Jesus to continue the work of his ministry we don’t know, probably sooner than later, nor do we know how long it took for the people Jesus encountered to begin following him from one village or town to another.
This event we celebrate today brings to a close the Christmas season for this liturgical year. In the coming weeks, up until we reach the season of Lent we will hear Jesus being very busy at his public ministry, calling fishermen to follow him, inviting those who would become disciples, and perhaps later apostles to come along and listen to the words his heavenly Father wants to impart to them.
This will be the beginning of the journey that will last for several months, perhaps close to three years when he will come to the momentous events taking him to Jerusalem and finally to Calvary. We are all invited once again to follow along and listen, reflect and pray as we hear the beautiful teachings of Jesus and witness the comforting acts of healing that give new meaning and life to so many.
Let us follow our Lord Jesus and may he bless us all on this journey.