Today (Sunday) is the last day of the Christmas season. After we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, we will pack up the Christmas decor and go back to ordinary time on Monday.
The return to ordinary time brings back a favorite theme: mission, or living out our mission in the day-to-day.
In today’s Gospel, we see Christ discovering his mission. Through a beatific vision, He understands who He is and what His mission is.
The Father addresses him: “You are My beloved child; with you I am well pleased!”
Elizabeth Braddon said, “It is at this moment, that he ‘heard’ a voice that would launch him on the path of teacher, prophet, healer, and would intimately connect him as a Spirit person—the mediator of the Divine.”
Today let us pause and go to our own “River Jordan”—that moment we hear a voice that sets us on our journey.
After Christmas, I exchanged e-mail messages with a good friend, an American Jesuit whom I got to know during my studies in the United States.
After we both left university, our ties deepened as we always compared notes on our parallel journeys of development work.
My friend said he had his “beatific vision” in his “River Jordan” just last November.
He was having cocktails with close friends in a five-star hotel when he was suddenly overcome by a strange feeling. He heard a voice tell him: “I don’t belong here. Why am I here?”
It was not a judgmental feeling toward the crowd, but a liberating realization that he should focus on his work for the poor.
‘If you lead me’
This means that from his university development/advancement work, he should concentrate on the Cristo Rey schools of his province, those high schools for the poor communities in the US.
Then he felt the words and melody of a religious song: “I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart” (from “Here I am Lord”).
He knew the song was a confirmation of his decision to leave his university work and immerse himself in educating young men and women.
He said he felt dazed as he walked away; and then he bumped into a friend in the hotel lobby.
This friend, a high-profile investment banker, was on his way to the same event.
The banker had been working with my Jesuit friend in the Cristo Rey schools for close to two years. My friend was overcome with joy and peace that he hugged the banker tightly as they greeted each other.
The banker then bared plans to retire soon and work full-time in the schools.
My friend said the banker’s statement affirmed his experience in the ballroom, like God was speaking to him.
As Braddon said, “Something cosmic happened! The voice of confirmation—‘You are my beloved child; with you I am well-pleased!’”
My friend’s experience in the ballroom was a confirmation that he had taken the right turn in his journey.
Attending the cocktails, a break from what had been his journey for years, eventually led to the mission where God truly wants him.
Today, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, we are reminded of such moments.
The return to ordinary time does not mean “more of the same,” but rather a return to the ordinary that was renewed by the joy and magic of Christmas.
In the words of my spiritual director, it is the ordinary that leads us “to discover God’s extraordinary grace” and live out our day-to-day life, giving back to this wonderful God.
We are given moments of great clarity, a beatific vision that affirms that we are doing the right thing because it is God’s will.
There is nothing more liberating than realizing that, despite the most valued and treasured people, relationships or things in one’s life, there is nothing that matters more than one’s relationship with God and one’s mission from God.
Allow the voice within to speak to us and renew our relationship with the God who tells us: “You are my beloved son/daughter…”
This year, during the ordinary moments and things of the day-to-day, discover and bring to others the extraordinary love and grace of this extraordinary God.