(Baptism of the Lord: Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11)
In today’s Gospel, there are three who bear witness to Jesus. The first is John the Baptist, who foretells his coming.
The other two, in order of appearance, are the Holy Spirit, in the visible form of a dove, and God the Father, who is heard, not seen. At the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, they assume their role in all that is to follow. St. John sums this up in our second reading: “The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth... Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son.”
Witnessing to Christ is the vocation of the whole Church. This takes the form of words, of course, in the Scriptures and in Church teaching.
But as we see throughout the Gospels, the Father and the Spirit affirm Jesus’ person and ministry through their power and presence as well. Thus is fulfilled the saying of today’s first reading: “For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth... my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”
At La Salette, as important as the Beautiful Lady’s message is, her witness is far more than words. It is light, it is a crucifix, roses, and chains, it is the eloquence of tears.
Similarly, there is a difference between speaking the truth and living it. No doubt, people in the area around La Salette used traditional religious speech, such as “Thank God,” but it did not translate into a way of life, at least not, as Mary pointed out, in participating in the great thanksgiving, the Eucharist.
The life of the baptized is not purely sacramental, of course. Our whole way of life ought to manifest the authenticity of our faith. At baptism we received a white garment; so too we ought always to be clothed in faith, hope, and love, as we live out the beatitudes.
None of this is to say that words are unimportant. We cannot think of La Salette without Mary’s loving invitation, her discourse, and her final sending forth. It is possible, too, that our words might help others to understand our way of life, as we play our part in fulfilling the mission of the Church.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.