Today, Roman Catholic Dioceses of the United States are celebrating the Baptism of the Lord by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River. St. Ignatius Loyola recognized that this event marked the beginning of the adult ministry of Jesus. Prior to this event, little is known about the life of Jesus.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius has his retreatants (also called exercitants) pray over the gospel narratives of Christ’s life in sequence. Right before praying over the baptism of Christ, though, the exercitants are given two special meditations: one on the “Two Standards,” and another on the “Three Classes of Men.” These meditations sensitize the exercitants to the importance of decision-making. Sometimes we make conscientious decisions while other times we just go with the flow, allowing the wind of circumstances to blow us along.
Jesus made a conscientious decision to leave behind his friends and his family in Galilee. He decided to be baptized by John the Baptist, despite John’s protest that it should be the other way around. As a result, the heavens were opened, the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and a voice came down from heaven, saying “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Spiritual Exercises is a great gift to the Church, because it helps retreatants to make decisions like Jesus did. If you are trying to make an important decision, try finding a director who will give you the Spiritual Exercises. If you have already made the Exercises, remember that the graces you were given remain relevant and operative even if it was a long time ago.