July 11, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news is found today in Mark 1:7-8.
And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy spirit.
It’s interesting to me that Moloney in The Gospel of Mark points out that God is called the Mightier One in numerous Hebrew scriptural passages. It’s clear here that Mark is referring to Jesus who in just a few short verses has already been called Christ, the Son of God, and the Lord. Moloney also notes that the prophets traditionally reminded the Israelites of what God has already done for them, His salvation from trials they have endured.
John is now telling the people of God’s promise for salvation that will be coming through one who is mightier than he and one who will bestow the power of the Holy Spirit. To those who listened intently to John this was a remarkable demarcation between the old and the new age. The power to give the Holy Spirit as spoken through the prophet Ezekiel is to be conferred upon Jesus. God revealed through Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart,and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”
John proclaimed a baptism of repentance. Marcus Borg in Jesus writes that the word repentance derives from the Greek word meaning “to go behind the mind that you have.” That’s what John in trying to prepare people for — a new way of thinking about and relating to God through His Son Jesus. It is so hard for me to go beyond the mind that I have. Once I have an image in mind or an opinion it is mightily difficult to change. That change can’t be imposed upon me from outside. It does not good to argue a different point of view with me; I will stubbornly hold to what I know to be “true.” That was the greatest obstacle that Jesus faced in his ministry — changing minds, leading people to go beyond the minds that they had to see God and His decrees in a new way, a way of love and compassion and forgiveness.
That’s why I been given the gift of the Holy Spirit — to enable me to change from within. Like John I am called to be humble and committed to serving others. I cannot rely upon my own might to do so, I have to draw upon the Holy Spirit within me. As God tells me through Ezekiel, He will give me a new heart taking away my stony heart so that I may live according to his commands. It is so hard to give up the illusion that I have power of my own; I must go beyond that mindset to fully receive Jesus and his Holy Spirit, to be in communion with God and live my life as He desires. It is a minute-to-minute, day-to-day struggle and why it’s so important for me to undergo baptism with the Holy Spirit by reflecting on the gospel every day.