Readings: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 / Isaiah 55:1-11; Psalm 29 / Isaiah 12:2-6; Acts 10:35-38 / 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11
Solidarity is a word that became very familiar in the 1980s with the famous Polish trade union, and then as John Paul II's term for 'social charity'. It means people standing side by side, brothers and sisters in a common struggle, sharing the same hopes and fears, the same joys and disappointments.
Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist in solidarity with the rest of the human race. It was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. He entered the waters of the Jordan as the servant of God, and one who was to bear the sins of all. He stood side by side with the rest of humankind. In that event the Holy Spirit descended on him, anointing him for his mission. God's favour rested on him. God was 'well-pleased' with him and acknowledged him as his 'Beloved Son'.
If the baptism of Jesus reveals his solidarity with us, it is also the beginning of our solidarity with him. Just as Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and strengthened for the task ahead, so all who are in solidarity with him, who are 'baptised' into his death and resurrection, receive the Holy Spirit.
It is not a special feeling, but a certain belief. It is not just Christ coming down to our level but Christ raising us to his level. A traditional way of putting it is to say that all human beings can be 'sons in the Son', adopted children of God, as Jesus is the natural child of the Father.
Our solidarity with him, our living in the Holy Spirit as he did, means a new relationship with God and therefore a new way of speaking to God, a new way of prayer. What is this prayer of the Spirit which is possible to those who are in solidarity with Christ? It is Christ's own prayer, 'Abba, Father'. It is not just 'Father' in a distant, cold and formal sense. It is 'Abba', in the language Jesus spoke, 'Daddy', and maybe even 'Papa'. It means relating to God with trust, with confidence, intimately, warmly - as a little child would to its parent.
It is a prayer which is not afraid to ask for what it needs. It is a prayer which is simple and straightforward. It is the way in which Jesus himself prayed all through his life, asking for strength, asking for guidance, asking that the Father would reveal clearly his will.
The Holy Spirit is the power of God which makes all this possible. It is a gentle power, not bruising the crushed reed or quenching the wavering flame, but strengthening them. In this power we are in solidarity with Christ, we are the children of God, we are able to relate to God in a new way, we are capable of praying in the way that Christ our brother did, calling on God as our Father.
In the most difficult moments of life it is the power of the Holy Spirit which carries us along. For Christ, the experience of the agony in the garden and his dying on the cross, are the moments beyond words, moments of heart-rending confusion and agony, moments when his spirit cries out, 'Father, let this cup pass me by', 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit'. In our own moments of difficulty and despair, moments when we do not know how to pray as we ought, it is then, Saint Paul says, that the Spirit himself intercedes for us, 'with sighs too deep for words'.
This homily was first published in the Sunday Letter, published by Rollebon Press, Tallaght, for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 13 January 1985.