Readings: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7, Psalm 104, R. O bless the Lord, my soul.; Acts 10:34-38; Gospel—Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
“You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3: 22) With this revelation of the Father, Jesus, through the beatific vision in today’s Gospel, sees, with great clarity, His identity and mission.
He is the beloved Son, and His mission is to please the Father through His fidelity, constancy and loving obedience to the Father’s will and mission for Him.
Spiritual writers consider this the vocation story of Jesus. We all have our vocation story, that moment when with clarity we get a glimpse of who we are and why we are here.
At times it can be as clear as Jesus’ beatific vision. In most instances, it is a very strong gut feel that gives us a sense of peace and intuitive certainty that we are in the right place and on the right path.
Dag Hammarskjöld beautifully describes this experience: “I don’t know who—or what—put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer yes to someone—or something—and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”
Today, as we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, which signals the closing of the Christmas season and our returning to ordinary time in the liturgical calendar, let us revisit our “moment . . . that hour [we were] certain that existence is meaningful.”
Our first point for reflection is, what have I seen as my identity and mission? The second point is the horizon of our life—not just our life, but the lives of people we live with and serve with. The third and final point is living our mission.
James Hollis, in his book “On This Journey We Call Our Life, Living the Questions,” gives us much to consider in reflecting on our identity and mission.
He writes: “How do we find our vocation our mission? In the end, it is the capacity of the ego to forego the need for security and comfort in service to some deeper force. But this is not easy. When does the summons come from the Self, or the Divine, and when from a complex? (Note: He defined complex in the Jungian sense, “autonomous, affect-laden ideas . . . energy clusters which have a life of their own.”) This difficult discernment is why the process of choice has to occur over time, with continuous review and reflection.”
Review and reflection
We saw this process in Jesus. The Finding in the Temple in Luke was where we saw Him first talk about his mission. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This is followed by, “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2: 49 and 52)
The next time we hear about Jesus is in today’s Gospel, His baptism, and the beginning of his public life.
Being fully human, Jesus went through this human search for identity and mission; as Hollis describes it, “the process of choice has to occur over time, with continuous review and reflection.” And after this beatific vision, Jesus journeyed through more clearly understanding and living this identity and mission.
A key point where He attained greater understanding and living out of His mission was in the Transfiguration, when the Father proclaimed this identity and mission of Jesus to others, Peter, James and John, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.” (Luke 9: 35)
This became clearest as a definitive revelation in the Cross and Resurrection event, where His loving obedience of dying on the Cross showed His being the Beloved Son and, in the Resurrection, we saw how well pleased the Father is.
This was a journey of identity and mission, with its struggles and triumphs. We saw its culmination in the Agony in the Garden, “Father not my will, but Your will be done.” (Luke 22: 42) It was the final choice and allowed Jesus to live out and fulfill His identity and mission in its fullness and perfection.
The second point is the horizon of our life and the horizon of the lives of people we live with and serve with. William Damon (cf. “The Path to Purpose”) points out that one of the great obstacles to the youth, to all of us, in discovering purpose—our mission—is the shortness of the horizon we have.
This is exacerbated by the influence of social media, a culture of instants, worsened by the growing cancel culture, revisionism, etc. We have dimmed our vision of dreams and horizons larger than life.
We have narrowed our dreams and horizons with what is current, what is trending, what is viral. We need to return to and reclaim the vision of dreams and horizons that is rooted and grounded in the truth, the truth of the Kingdom of God, the promise of eternity.
Worse, for most of our people carrying the yoke of poverty and injustice, we have deprived them of basic opportunities to dream and to have the horizon of simply having a chance at a better life. Worst is that manipulation and revisionism very insidiously condemn them to this curse of deprivation of dreams and horizons, which is necessarily rooted and grounded in the truth. The mission then includes overcoming this evil.
The third and final point is our living, our mission. For this we go back to Jesus’ moment of living this out to the full. “Father not my will, but Your will be done.” The integrity of our life is in mission lived to the full—in perfect love, lovingly serving others that they may live life to the full. —CONTRIBUTED INQ