January 10, 2021; Mark 1: 7-11; Baptism of the Lord
This week has been a tragic week. Images of violence in our nation’s capital have filled the media. I am willing to bet that you, like me, are shocked, angered, and somewhat disoriented. Whenever we experience disorientation such as this, we should turn to our faith for guidance.
Fortunately, a note is struck in today’s gospel that all of us need to hear. When the Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism, it comes in the form of a dove. The Spirit of God, the power of God, is unlimited. But God does not come to Jesus in the form of a sword or a club. The Spirit does not descend in the form of a lion or a bear. The Spirit rests upon Jesus as a dove, a symbol of peace. This is God’s way of showing us that Jesus’ life and message is one of non-violence. Jesus makes this explicit in the Sermon on the Mount when he asks us to turn the other cheek and to pray for our enemies.
What this tells us is that if we wish to be authentic to the life and message of Jesus, we must be non-violent people. We must be peacemakers. The more divided and angrier our country becomes, the more necessary it is for us to take up this role of being agents of peace. This starts on a personal level. If a family member has hurt us, if an associate has treated us unfairly, we must be those who believe that feeding our anger and looking for ways to get even will not help us but hurt us. True power is not striking back but beginning the journey to forgiveness. Violent words and actions will only harden our pain.
The message of Jesus also applies to our political situation. We are a divided country. We vehemently disagree with one another. But it is in the midst of such divisions that that we as followers of Jesus must take out stand against violence. We must be the ones who say to our fellow Americans that if we continue to dismiss one another, we will in time attack one another. If we continue to demonize one another, we will eventually assault one another. If we continue to feed our anger against each other, the day will come when that anger will devour us all. Yes, we are Republicans and Democrats, but we are also followers of Jesus. Yes, we deeply believe that our positions are right, but we also have a commitment to the Prince of Peace.
So today, let us pray that the Spirit of God who descended on Jesus as a peaceful dove may descend on us, to enable us to become agents of peace, compromise, and healing. Our nation is torn and bleeding. More than ever, it needs us to let our light shine.