When Christ emerged on the public scene to submit to the symbolic baptism of John the Baptist, it was not to confess that he was a sinner, but rather, to stand with us sinners. It was another manifestation of him as “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” His decision to be baptized did not come out of a void, but rather was preceded by his purifying 40 days in the desert. His desert experience was the time when he renounced all of Satan’s temptations and emerged resolved to submit to the Father’s plan. The end of the desert time providentially led to the public anointing of Christ in the Holy Spirit. This anointing confirmed that indeed Christ was the one in whom the Father was well pleased and that he would be the one to make possible the fulfillment of the Father’s will of restoring all persons to union with God.
The Father’s ultimate plan was clear to Christ and yet it remained veiled in the particulars as to how it would all unfold. The Old Testament Scriptures pledged the Father’s presence to Christ, that Christ would succeed and that there would be much suffering. The Scriptures promised that in the end, through the Messiah’s obedience, the Father would triumph over sin, sorrow and death and would achieve the possibility of reconciliation between every person and God.
Our lives are like this too. God promises salvation and eternal life to those who love him and are obedient in love to his plan now, but the particulars of each of our paths are often hidden. How God works out our salvation is often veiled from us. We do not know how all of this will unfold. We are called like Christ to be obedient to the day, come what may and to entrust ourselves to the Father’s path for us. This path will in the end yield our salvation through our committed union with him, especially through suffering. This daily obedience of dying to sin and to the choosing of faith, hope and love is not easy.
Christ is the model for us as to how to live this life with God. He models for us faithfulness even in the unknowing of future events. One day at a time with God. He models love and attentiveness to the souls in our midst each day, one person at a time. Christ embraced the person of the moment, whether the suffering leper, the loving Martha, the laughing disciples or the lost sinner, Christ loved and was attentive to the person in his midst. He also models for us absolute faith in the Father’s goodness even in great suffering and tears. Christ knew in faith that the Father was supreme love and goodness even in the face of surrounding horrors. He models hope by his trust in the Father’s power to bring immense good out of all things. His last words of “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” capture this absolute hope. Conformity to Christ then is a daily choosing to become like him in all things so as to one day reign with him forever.
Opportunities for Holiness
1. Pray for the ability to be faithful to God’s plan in the moment.
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you respond like Christ to the Father’s path in your life.
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.