Mk 1: 1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Preparing to walk in Jesus’s way
John’s baptism by water was for “repentance,” for symbolic cleansing. Baptism by Jesus would be an entirely different kind, a baptism in the Holy Spirit, “for the forgiveness of sins.” “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” If you remember, when John poured water over Jesus, the Spirit descended on Jesus as well.
At the beginning, people flocked to John with aching need for the opportunity to humble themselves before God. Yet at the end, in fear, even his disciples fled from Jesus to avoid the cross, though from it would flow his baptism. Until they received his Spirit, they would not understand.
For what do we feel an aching need? From what do we run in fear? We seek what God can give, but we fear the cost. With forgiveness comes the cross, not as a punishment but as the way. “Prepare the way.”
—Fr. Stephen Yavorsky, SJ, is the parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier Parish and a staff member at the Ignatian Spirituality Center in Kansas City, MO. He spent six years in Rwanda, and founded the Ignatian Spirituality Program in Denver.
Jesus, how I long for you to come, to heal me, to forgive me. I need you, but I run from you. Lord, stop me in my tracks. I have waited so long for you. Turn me around to walk with you on your way.
—Fr. Stephen Yavorsky, SJ