For the Journey

We are praying this week with two sensitive and frightening experiences in the life of Jesus and subsequently in our own lives. One is the celebration and reflection on the baptism of Jesus. In the Exercises, Ignatius would have us first watch Jesus leave his home and his mother. This scene is not in Scripture, but Ignatius cannot picture Jesus casually and callously moving out without a tender scene of separation.

Jesus will ask his own disciples to leave everything, including their father and their boats. Ignatius too had to leave his family and home and knew the tension that is caused by the call of Jesus to leave everything to follow him.

Freedom does not mean heartlessness or insensitivity. He came to enhearten us so that his joy may be complete in our joy. Is looking back allowed? Are longing and loving allowed in being companions with Jesus? As followers, we are called not to live compulsively obsessed. We are invited to be dedicated not deadicated. We watch with reverence the tender scene of Jesus kissing his mother and perhaps lingering and looking back at his mother, whose tears begin her son’s baptismal journey. She had said, “Let it be done,” and now it is beginning to be done.

We are then encouraged, when it is right for each of us, to watch and listen to the ordinational baptism of Jesus. He hears who he is to his Father and has his own personal prayer and discernment blessed as well. He humbly accepts both the pouring of water by John and the proclamation that he is now publicly known to be the Anointed, the Christ. He has received the gifts of the three kings at his birth. He has received his self-awareness in his own prayer. He now receives confirmation to be the beloved servant from his Father to his people.

We listen, we watch, and we reflect on his dignity, his destiny, and his own trust in both. Ignatius asks us to turn toward ourselves and reflect on our having been baptized into that same dignity, destiny, and — yes — awareness of whom each of us is. To be bathed in Christ is to be immersed in his being servant of God’s people and confirmed as beloved of his Father.

In this one week of considerations, we move from tenderness to tremblingness because of the frightening dignity we receive by being one with him. We tremble as well when we consider our destiny as servants. We might find ourselves standing on the bank of the river of his baptism and wanting to check it out or talk it over with Jesus, who is accepting who he is while turning to us tenderly. Does he say, “Come on in; the water’s fine?” Does he understand our timidity, our valid questions about his future and our own?

Jesus is baptized and begins taking his life very personally and seriously. Ignatius asks us to move in that direction as well. Jesus did not know where this would lead him; we do not know either, except we do know that he will lead us. Tender timidity is our sense of self as we begin to immerse ourselves into Christ.

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