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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ The Spirit: Recognizing the Mission of Jesus

I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and remain on him (John 1:29-34)

Here we are at the beginning of Ordinary Time. Our journey through this year will be one which draws us into the mission of Jesus to build the Reign of God. We will have the opportunity to listen to the Good News, reflect on it and pray about this Reign and what Jesus reveals about it. This Sunday we begin our journey.

The piece of the story that we hear this Sunday comes from the Gospel writer John (1:29-34). John’s version of the Good News was written a generation or more after the death and resurrection of Jesus. As John writes he does so out of his own faith and the faith experience of a community of early Christians. He also writes with a firm conviction that the Spirit of God which moved Jesus, also dwells in him and in each person of his community. He tells of this Spirit in his Gospel.

Early in the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke, we hear the story of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist. One element of that story relates how after the baptism, Jesus came up from the Jordan and the Spirit of God descended upon him. The story we hear today, from John’s Gospel adds a significant piece to this. John tells us that the Spirit was seen to descend on Jesus and remain on him. What can we say about this?

We discover that as the gospel writers tell their story, the baptism event and the coming of the Spirit mark the beginning of Jesus’ awareness of the relationship he has with the Father. When John tells us that the Spirit remains on Jesus he presents us with Jesus’ recognition and acceptance of his mission. That mission is the proclamation that the Reign of God is present among us. In his words and in his actions he reveals that this Reign is directed at all creation and all the peoples of the earth. The Reign is a life-giving one. It is to bring healing and reconciliation and to result in the building of unity and peace in all creation. And there is more to the Good News.

What happens to Jesus, happens to us. We live in a special relationship with the Father, with God. Through Jesus we are the adopted daughters and sons of God. Like, Jesus the mission of building the Reign of God has been given also to us. In fact, the Spirit that remains on Jesus continues to work in our world as that Spirit remains on us.

For us to recognize that the Spirit remains on us and to be aware of this in the moments and events of our life is not easy. It calls for giving attention to the Spirit. The relationship we have with our God is like other relationships in our lives, we need to be in conversation. Such conversation is what we might call prayer and spirituality. Whether it is in words, actions, images or simply listening, prayer in its many forms allows us to offer our attention to the relationship into which we have been invited by the gift of the Spirit that remains on us. In other words, like any relationship, we have to pay attention to it.

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