The Strength of Christ’s Baptism: When Life-Threatening Stresses are a Normal Feature of Life

Perhaps you are familiar with the famous prayer called “The Breastplate of St. Patrick.” It is a perfect prayer to begin as soon as we open our eyes in the morning. Even if you don’t memorize the whole prayer, once you are familiar with it, you can make it up as you go, personalizing it for your own particular situation. For example – Christ in my classroom, Christ at my computer, Christ in the hallways, Christ in my kitchen, Christ in the hearts of my children, etc.

One line from his Breastplate prayer struck me and made me ponder:“I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism.” My first thought was of the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus as He prayed, and the Father’s voice is heard. The Father speaks to the Son who is in constant communion with Him already, always hears His voice, always does what is pleasing to Him, but so all could hear, the Father’s voice is audible to all present, saying, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This is what our heavenly Father says to us also at our Baptism, and perpetually from that moment on as He adopts us as his son or daughter, giving us that same Spirit that rested upon Jesus. But, what happens next?

With the strength of His Baptism, Christ goes into the desert. In fact, Scripture tells us that the Spirit was the One who led Him there. As author and geobiologist Hope Jahren says, “a cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet…. In the desert, life-threatening stresses aren’t a crisis; they are a normal feature of the life cycle. Extreme stress is part of the very landscape…. Survival depends on the cactus’ ability to tolerate deathly grim dry spells over and over again” (excerpt from Lab Girl).

So now Jesus, led by the Spirit into the desert, was tempted by the devil, and fasted for forty days. Luke makes it a point to tell us that Jesus was hungry, so we might not go thinking that since He is God He probably used some divine power to avoid feeling the suffering of hunger. Yes, He was hungry. Yet He remained there, suffering not just hunger, but all the full force of evil, with high temperatures, lots of sun, no shade, and very little water. He had no company of friends or family, which we know from His Incarnation were an integral part of His life. However, He sacrifices all this for us during this particular time of battle.

His Spirit is also called the Enabler and the Spirit of Love, which the Book of Revelation describes as a “river of life-giving water” (Rev. 22:1). In our deserts, in our lack, our suffering, in wherever God sends us each day, we have this strength of Christ’s Baptism in us- the strength to confront evil, to flourish in dry spells, and to remember we truly are sons and daughters of the Most High.

~ Written by Sister M. Regina

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