Having enjoyed it so much the first time around, I’m currently reading again a great book by a priest whose theology and life views I’ve admired for decades. (His name is Daniel Maguire.) Actually it’s light, though very substantial, reading, filled with humor that has me laughing on every other page! I wrote to thank him for what he’s written. He resigned from the active ministry of his priesthood many years ago, married, raised a family and continued for a long time to teach at a Catholic university.
Early in the book, he dedicates four pages to 19 major events in his personal and professional life, many of them disappointments and tragedies of one sort or another, including the death of their 10-year-old son. He introduced the list as surprises of life that awaited him; he ends it by saying, “I never saw all that coming. How I dealt with it, sometimes well, sometimes anything but, is a story full of life with all its spices…and not just a few lessons. I share it in these pages.”
Did the real Jesus (not the Jesus manufactured by piety and religious imagination over the centuries), did that real Jesus have any idea that his life of loving service would end in rejection and violent death? I think not.
During those 3 years of his work among the people, when they came flocking to him from all over, listening to every word he spoke, singing his praises, wanting to crown him king, he could never have imagined that he would soon be crucified as though he were a criminal. It was only when he was very near his death that he saw clearly the handwriting on the wall.
The greatness of Jesus is found in both periods of his life: in the first, when he gave himself totally to God in unselfish service to the people; and in the last, when he did not run away from the terrible ordeal that awaited him.
I think that is what we are honoring today as we remember his Baptism at the age of about 30: that he was committing himself to something largely hidden from his view, trusting that the God he called Father would, in the end, make all things right and happy and beautiful and would provide for him along the way, especially at the most difficult times.
Jesus was saying a firm Yes to both “better” and “worse” and was certain he’d complete the journey successfully because its ultimate outcome lay in the wisdom and love and power of God.
Persons who have experienced deaths of many kinds – the death of someone very close to them, the death of their marriages, the death of physical and mental powers, the death of their fondest hopes and dreams — still have lives to live, commitments to keep, love to share, and faith to practice. In all of that they are bound to be led beyond anticipated limits, just as Jesus was.
For all of us Christians, the focus of existence here on earth is Baptism, in which the direction and the ultimate meaning of our lives are established, as they were for Jesus.
I wish you happiness and peace and hope on the next lap of your journey!