With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

The Baptism of the Lord

Isaiah 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David. As I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of nations, so shall you summon a nation you knew not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you. Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

1 John 5:1-9

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth. So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and the three are of one accord. If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater. Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son.

Mark 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up 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 heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

“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.

Posted: January 10, 2021

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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