When I was growing up, I enjoyed reading “Li’l Abner” in the comic pages of the Reading Eagle. One character in the strip was named Joe Btfsplk (yes, that’s the correct spelling!) He was a likeable sort of guy but was jinxed with incredibly bad luck. The symbol of this misfortune was a dark cloud that always hovered over his head.
Hovering over Jesus’ head at his baptism was a dove; the evangelist Mark writes that Jesus saw “the Spirit descending like a dove upon him.” This hovering dove was not a sign of bad luck, but of God’s presence. This presence did not assure Jesus of an easy or care-free life. The Jesus we meet in Mark’s Gospel faced intense temptations, and experienced sorrow, disappointment, and suffering. The Spirit is not a guarantee of worldly success; rather, the Spirit is the power of God leading Jesus to trust God and love neighbor, even when it is costly to do so.
In Holy Baptism, we receive this same Spirit; not as a magic charm to ward off all that can hurt us, but as a sign of God’s presence in the midst of whatever comes our way.
Father in heaven, in grace you have sent your Spirit upon us, surrounding us with your love. Through the Spirit, strengthen us to live the obedient way that was modeled by your Son. Amen.