With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

by Susanna Mak
The Baptism of the Lord

Isaiah 55:1-11

1 John 5:1-9

Mark 1:7-11

“With great power comes great responsibility”, a proverb popularized by the Spider-Man comic books written by Stan Lee, comes to mind on this great Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Spider-Man, a superhero deeply entrenched in contemporary popular culture, is a rather interesting figure. A person of contradictions; a mild-mannered and timid photographer by day and a fearless and powerful kung-fu-fighting, web-spinning, crime-busting superhero by night, when Peter Parker puts on his red and blue suit and a spider mask, there’s no telling what great feats he may accomplish. However, beneath the suit is just an ordinary individual who is willing to answer the call despite his shortcomings and imperfections. Why would so many aspire to such a figure of contradictions? Perhaps many of us recognize our shared humanity in Spider-Man; an ordinary person who not only experiences challenges, brokenness, and despair, but also triumphs, wholeness, and hope when he embraces all that he is and lives true to himself. If a fictional character can inspire such awe and aspirations, how much more would Jesus the only Son of God, a real-life superhero, transform our hearts and minds, and our world? On this great Feast of The Baptism of the Lord, we are invited to be completely open to the voice of the Holy Spirit, so that we may recognize our true identity hidden beneath all our fears and weaknesses, and to see ourselves as God sees us.

Jesus is, indeed, a figure of contradictions. This week’s readings offer an interesting juxtaposition of Jesus’ power and might and His humility. In Isaiah, Jesus is the “servant”, but “upheld” and “chosen” by God, upon whom rests God’s Spirit, and with whom God is “pleased” (Is 42:1). Similarly, Jesus’ uniqueness is highlighted in Mark’s Gospel. A brief but pivotal scene at the River Jordan, featuring John the Baptist, Jesus, and perhaps some bystanders or people waiting to be baptised, is nothing short of being extraordinary. All these human activities are overshadowed and transcended by the presence of the Holy Spirit, affirming Jesus’ sonship and divinity. After Jesus is baptized by John, “the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Mk 1:10-11). This chosen one is given the task to bring forth justice, not by force or might, but meekly, gently, and quietly, “not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench” (Is 42:2-3). How could one seemingly so meek in the eyes of the world accomplish such monumental tasks of “open[ing] the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness” (Is 42:7)? In truth, Christ’s greatest power lies in His humility to accept His Father’s will, even though “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:10-11). With great power from the Spirit, indeed, comes great responsibility!

As we celebrate and reflect on Christ’s baptism this week, we, once again, renew our gratitude for God’s compassion and unconditional love for us. God calls each of us by our name; He calls us to be His children through the Sacrament of Baptism. Like Jesus, we, too, have received the Holy Spirit that not only equips us with great power but also calls us to even greater responsibility beyond our wildest imagination. Knowing the great gifts and expectations God has bestowed on us, how should we live ? Like Jesus, “with the Holy Spirit and power [,] He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”(Acts 10:38). Let us attune our ears to listen to the voice that calls us “beloved” sons and daughters of God, let our inner superhero out, and bravely walk with Christ and each other.