January 9, 2022
Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
“Were not our hearts gradually catching fire within us as he spoke to us on the road?”
Two Travelers on the Road to Emmaus
For 15 years I presented at a bilingual diocesan Day of Retreat for 300 baptismal sponsors and 600 candidates: they prepared me to look anew at “You are my son, the Beloved.” At baptisms today this gift of “being beloved” is Jesus’ to those who name him Lord.
Prior to the actions of Jesus, John, and Yahweh at the baptism, Luke as a writer offers a detailed background about familial stories of Jesus and John and the rising public yearning for a Messiah. While the times are troubled, hope does remain for action from God.
The water and banks of the Jordan River provide the site for Jesus’ public adult response to Abba. The vivid movements within Luke’s presentation of John’s baptisms have many spaces for us – first, to approach the scene; then, to observe interaction among the participants; and finally, to select personal meaning from the event. (Viktor E. Frankel notes, “Between every stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response.”)
For Jesus, John’s baptism of repentance is his moment to say a wholehearted “Yes” to whatever will come from the Spirit of God. Baptism by John becomes the gateway for Jesus accepting and embracing his public mission as God’s servant – open to suffering and infused with love for God and for people especially those on the edge of society. A voice from heaven (Abba) responds with delight, “You are my son, the Beloved. In you I am well pleased.” The Spirit (signed as a dove) lights up the depth of the moment and throws new light on Jesus. So begins Jesus’ mission as preached within the community of Luke.
For the crowd at John’s baptism personal questions still remain: “Will the Messiah come soon? Is john the Baptist the Messiah? After I am repentant and baptized, what comes next?” For Jesus, his baptism draws him deeper into prayer rather than into questions. These will come later in the desert and from his experience in his home town.
For now, after much prayer and a long time in the desert, Jesus will begin his conscious journey to proclaim God’s infinite goodness and boundless love for all, especially those on the edge of society. As Jesus Christ understands Abba and the Spirit, God desires but a hearty “Yes.” Throughout the Gospel of Luke more public connections will occur among Jesus as Son, the Spirit of God, and Abba.
Named the beloved son and filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus will move into the public world of his time and be willing to wait for hearts to respond to his message. He remains fully present and ready to speak the truth. He will choose to be simple and vulnerable, wise about his culture and connected to others with an open heart. Later followers and authors remember that the Beloved Son Jesus also said, “Love others as I love you.” While we are part of the familial heritage of “the Beloved,” he is very direct about what love looks like: sonship is a matter of faithful obedience to Yahweh no matter what.
Luke’s gospel concludes with the post-crucifixion story about the Emmaus journey of two followers of Jesus. After meeting the resurrected Jesus along the way, his actions and words prompt these travelers to remember,” Were not our hearts gradually catching fire within us as he spoke to us on the road.” Jesus’ joy, Abba’s delight and the Holy Spirit’s love encouraged them and now us also on the road.
What direction does your heart take in response to “the Beloved?”
Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;with you I am well pleased.”
The Gospel of the Lord