Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” – Mt 3:13-17
In order for redemption to happen, John had to trust Jesus and let go of his own ideas. It seems to me that we all do.
When we’re Jesus people we have to trust in God. God keeps putting this in my face when I’d rather just keep doing my own thing. In today’s Gospel story, John’s protest to Jesus’ Way reminded me of the challenge to let go all over again.
God keeps giving me lessons about this principle as I move through this messy world and wonder if any of the things I try to do are making a difference. I once heard a peacemaker remind an activist group about the importance of taking sabbath frequently. If we don’t, it was said, our actions say that we don’t trust in God and think that the peace of the world is dependent on us. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and my pride was knocked out of me; I always try to do too much.
I am challenged over and over to turn away from my seemingly urgent to-do list and let God take care of things. Sometimes I am forced into it. Sickness sneaks in and my body insists that I let myself rest and just be. I squirm through fevers and aches because I am uncomfortable – not with being sick but with lack of productivity. I feel better about myself if I feel like I am accomplishing stuff. Why can’t I just allow God to take care of me and trust that everything is right on track?
Other times, God’s hints that I need to trust are a little more subtle. I need to clue in and really contemplate little things that I am introduced to. My mantra at mass today was “plant sequoias, I hope I am.” Random, I know. It’s because I recently learned a poem by Wendel Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, that includes this lesson:
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
It’s so hard, when the pain and division of humanity is also in our face and we want to respond. The sorrow in the news can be so discouraging. The news about the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona that left others dead is awful. This story is another horrific example about the need for peaceful resistance to hate and violence.
At times the needs for reform can feel so urgent that we want to rush into action. We know people are starving, cold, homeless and sick today. We worry about global warming. We aren’t blind to the fact that children are dying on the streets right now. It seems that our world is desperate to know the different Way of Jesus, and we need get going.
Yet, we have to “trust in the slow work of God” (Teilhard de Chardin, S.J) as we each play our small part in the Master’s plan. Thank God we’re in this together and united as a Body of Christ. As hard as it is, I think I am grateful that God’s design allow us to be small. Prophets and creation call us to let go and trust. When we try, then we taste freedom.
Did John the Baptist know what he was allowing when he followed Jesus’ plan? Was it hard for John to accept that there wouldn’t be immediate results?
Was John okay with the fact that his choice to trust in Jesus would slowly unfold through all eternity?
And, what about us? As we work, hope, serve and pray, are we okay with the fact that we’re only participants in a greater plan?
Do we believe that our actions- and our stillness- could be sequoia seeds, blessing God’s Kingdom centuries from now? Do we trust in God?