I was blessed in my youth to live in Massachusetts, only 40 miles from the ocean beach where my family vacationed for a week each summer. My father used to say that if he had to work all year to have that one week at the beach, it would be worth it, and so it was. Those years left an indelible mark on my soul; just standing at the edge of that vast Atlantic seashore was—and is—a powerful experience. It is not as frequent an experience for me now, although I still live within a six-hour drive from the beach. Each time I have the privilege of return I hope for big waves so that I might see if I can withstand their power and remain upright as I meet them face to face. As well, I long for a moment of calm when, standing waist high in the water, I plunge in a surface dive as deep as I can and then let go to wherever the dive takes me. I belong then to the water, the waves, for a moment of surrender.
Today Christians celebrate the liturgy of the Baptism of the Lord. One commentator notes that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized, but allowed it to “recharge with his love and his light all rivers and all waters and all places and peoples forevermore.” I liked that thought (Chris Anderson, Light When It Comes). It reminded me of how my dives in the ocean cleanse me. Sometimes, however, as I sit in Church or elsewhere considering the ritual that celebrates the sacrament, I wish for more. I want someone to shout: The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the Lord over vast waters. The voice of the Lord is mighty; the voice of the Lord is majestic! (PS 29) I want to hear that voice, the voice of the Father thundering: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, LISTEN TO HIM.“