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Jesus’ Holy Partnership

The Holy Spirit’s presence and activity in Jesus’ life have not yet received the attention they once claimed in the early Church, according to Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., preacher in the papal household. For example, we tend to look upon Jesus’ baptism in the river Jordan as a minor episode in his life and therefore miss the realization that the Spirit was a continuous presence in Jesus’ life. Consequently, we cannot appreciate Jesus in all his fullness. Further, it may also explain why we ignore the presence of the Spirit on our own spiritual journey.

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and lighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, ‘This is my own dear Son with whom I am pleased.’” Matthew 3:16ff. Fr. Cantalamessa states: “The mystery of the anointing …speaks to us of Jesus who at the incarnation and still more specifically at his baptism was filled with the Holy Spirit by the Father, so that Jesus in turn could fill us with the Holy Spirit since we share in the mystery of Christ’s anointing.”

Significance for Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism something happened that changed dramatically the course of his life. In this transforming moment in Jesus’ life on the River Jordan, the Spirit brought forth the virtues of radical faith, radical hope and radical love that were innate in Jesus at his incarnation. Here Jesus reached a stage in his growth in wisdom and grace that he began to commit to his messianic mission, publicly sharing the Good News with others. His baptism was his epiphany! Jesus’ life spent in Nazareth in obedience to the Father and to Joseph and Mary had been one long apprenticeship for this moment. Jesus experienced the powers necessary for his mission.

What were the immediate effects of the Spirit’s anointing? Jesus became a man passionate about his mission. His radical faith and hope gave him such fervor that his mind and heart worked with a supercharged power. When people came near him, they knew that there was something special about Jesus and responded in exciting ways. People gravitate toward passionate individuals. Jesus’ great confidence gave him power over people. Mt. 7:28ff: “When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. He was not like the teachers of law; instead he taught with authority.” We should add: with the authority empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When people approached Jesus to heal them, they could confidently say: “Sir, if you want to, you can heal me.”  Or the woman suffering from the issue of blood, “If I but touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.” People brought to Jesus many who had demons in them. Jesus drove out the evil spirits with a word. We should add: all through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Significance for Us. A Vatican ll document. Presbyterorum Ordinis, states that the Risen Christ “has made his whole Mystical Body share in the anointing by the Spirit with which he himself has been anointed.” Therefore, one same Spirit flows in Jesus and in us, as the same sap flows in the vine and in the shoots. Sharing in Jesus’ anointing, we also share Jesus’ mission and must bear witness in the world to his work of salvation.

As we read the Gospels, let us bear in mind that Jesus had a holy partner—the Holy Spirit who empowered him to radical faith, radical hope and radical love. It would be well to insert mentally the presence of the Spirit into the Gospel stories of Jesus’ life. Being aware of this partnership helps us to perceive the Spirit’s presence and activity in Jesus’ life and to develop our own personal partnership with the Spirit.