The people were filled with expectation.
John the Baptist didn’t quell those expectations, either — even though he knew he was NOT the Christ they were waiting for. Instead, he fanned those expectations into flame, didn’t he?
He said — No, I’m not the one you’re looking for, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John the Baptist stirs up the people’s expectation. He expands it. He deepens it! He helps them to realize that maybe their expectations were a little too low!
And so he says: “No, THINK HIGHER. THINK BETTER. There’s someone even more amazing coming.”
And then lo and behold, he DOES come, and Jesus himself is baptized by John the Baptist. And after he was being baptized, coming up out of the waters, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form. A manifestation of the Spirit — a tangible sign of Jesus’ unique place in the Trinity!
The people’s expectations were too low. And John rightly says look higher! Wait for the one who is going to do even better things, even more magnificent things, even more overwhelming things!
What sorts of things, you ask?
Well, in our first reading today, the prophet Isaiah foretold what sorts of signs and wonders, what sorts of magnificent things we might reasonably expect from the coming Messiah:
“Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
That’s exactly what Jesus was all about, what he did as he traveled around the Holy Land. He preached the truths of the Gospel, yes, but it wasn’t just talk. He revealed the power of God!
This is precisely what St. Peter testifies to in our second reading from Acts of the Apostles:
“You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.
After that happened — after this anointing of the Holy Spirit — Peter says that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
If that is true — If Jesus really did those things once upon a time — If he really opened the eyes of the blind. If he really brought prisoners out of isolation and shame. If he really cast out demons and set people free from darkness — then what about now? Does he still do that?
If we don’t see those things happening — of if we’d be so shocked if they did — Then I have to wonder — Do we have too low expectations? Do we not expect the Holy Spirit of power and fire… to show up?
Because God is real and He is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us. The Holy Spirit is LIVING in you. By your baptism into the waters of Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection, something has happened to you. The Father has spoken form a wide-open Heaven: “This is my beloved.” You’ve been anointed!
So don’t lower your expectations! Trust in that baptism! Trust in that anointing!
Something the Lord has been leading me to realize recently in my own prayer is that my expectations have been too low.
It’s almost as if I think God is sort of stingy — that He doesn’t want to pour out an anointing of the Holy Spirit and power upon us here and now.
That somehow, things are different now.
Miracles don’t happen anymore.
Healings don’t happen anymore.
Conversions don’t happen anymore.
But open any page from the Acts of the Apostles! The first disciples knew that Jesus was still active in THEM. They knew and expected that Jesus was alive and could still do all of those things.
By the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit — dwelling in them!
The disciples did exactly what Jesus did in his public ministry. They healed people. They cast out devils. People were raised from the dead!
That’s real history!
Do we believe that? Because I think that’s what the Lord is still asking of us today. He’s encouraging us to expect THOSE sorts of things to start happening in our parishes. In our families. In our daily life.
But sometimes I think we’re too sleepy! Are we not awake to the workings and the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Are we limiting him by our low expectations?
There’s a line in the brand new “Spider-Man” movie, “No Way Home” where the character MJ tells her boyfriend, Peter Parker that “if you always expect disappointment then you can never be disappointed.”
How sad that attitude is! — But that’s sort of how we approach the Holy Spirit today. If we expect disappointment, we can never be disappointed! If we lower our expectations, then we won’t ever be frustrated by the lack of results. We won’t ever be hurt when our loved one isn’t healed, when the conversion doesn’t come, or when it simply isn’t God’s plan to work the miracle we thought we needed.
I know that’s where I’ve been. I tend to expect so little from the Lord, probably because I’m afraid the Spirit won’t be so powerful after all.
Sometimes when I go into a hospital room, and I’m bringing the anointing of the sick — I know I don’t expect a whole lot. Sure, I believe that Jesus is there. I believe He is anointing that person. I believe that He’s giving this person whatever graces they need.
But I have to ask myself — am I expecting too little?
What if I expected that some people would be physically healed through this sacrament? Because that is a very real possibility! If you look at everything the Church teaches about the Anointing of the Sick, this is NOT just about emotional comfort. This sacrament is a sacrament of Healing — of soul, yes! But we have to be open to, and even expect that a physical, bodily healing might happen, too — if it is according to God’s design and will!
We come and celebrate the Eucharist every single week, maybe every single day — We dare to expect that somehow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I happen to think it’s a much smaller thing for the Holy Spirit to do something like curing someone. Or casting out a devil that has been oppressing someone with anxiety, lack of forgiveness, bitterness, and resentment.
Those are much smaller things than the Holy Eucharist being confected on our altar…. God Himself making Himself accessible to us under the appearance of bread and wine!
So I guess what I’m trying to encourage everyone here to do is — Expect more from God.
Expect the Holy Spirit to show up in your life.
The early Church frequently spoke of the Holy Spirit as the “Wild Goose.” I wonder… Have we tried to tame the Wild Goose? Have we done our best to make the Goose powerless today?
I say — Set the Goose loose!
Allow Him to do whatever He really wants to do. Because that’s what Jesus did. He’s so free in His ministry because He was totally surrendered to the Wild Goose — the constantly surprising and beautiful Spirit who blows wherever He wills.
This would require us to have great faith, because we really like control don’t we? We prefer to know what the Holy Spirit is getting us into…which way He’s blowing. But the deeper invitation is to simply reach out and expect Him to show up.
The story of the hemorrhaging woman comes to mind. She had great expectational faith! Remember — everyone was pressing in on Jesus. Everyone was pushing in, crowding around — he couldn’t even move! And yet that one woman reached out and said: “I’m going to expect. I’m going to expect what God can actually do. I’ll even dare to expect a healing — that power to come forth from Jesus!”
And sure enough — the bleeding stopped. And Jesus spins around saying: “Who touched me? Power has gone out from me.”
That woman got a taste of what it means for God to show up powerfully in her life.
Now, obviously, I’m not saying that everyone will or needs to experience a dramatic or miraculous healing. And of course, God absolutely DOES work through all sorts of natural means: Medicine, doctors, nurses, psychologists… These are all good and necessary.
But I wonder — what if we as Christians — dead to sin, alive in Christ, started to claim that the Lord is real, and that He is supernaturally active TODAY? What if we expected even more to be possible?
This world needs our expectation.
People all around us need us to be just like those first disciples in the Acts of the Apostles — empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit. The SAME Holy Spirit that anointed the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan.
They need you to be nourished right here with the Eucharist, and then go out on the streets to be ANOINTED ONES out THERE… to be Christians.
That’s what it means to be Christian… the word “Christ” means “anointed one.” We are Christians — anointed ones — we live in Jesus, and Jesus lives in us. By our baptism, we have become members of His Body the Church — adopted children of God — temples of the Holy Spirit — other Christs! We, too, have been anointed with the Holy Spirit and power.
That is Who fills us.
So don’t be afraid to expect amazing things from the Holy Spirit living in you.
The next time somebody tells you: “Ya know, I’m going in for surgery, and I’m feeling very nervous” — Offer to pray for them! Like right there. Trust in the Holy Spirit that He will give you the right words to do that. Ask for the Lord’s will to be done — even a tangible, physical healing!
The next time someone’s tells you: “Man, my kid doesn’t want to go to church anymore. They hate it.” Say to them, “Let’s pray right now. Let’s pray together in the Holy Spirit right this second, and ask for a conversion. Ask the Holy Spirit to somehow break into this person’s life and do something new. Show up! Expect the Spirit to move! Expect freedom from addiction. Expect vocations to the priesthood. Expect vocations to the women’s religious life.
I want to fan into flame YOUR expectation.
Because God is good. And He is a Father who wants to share His abundance and generosity with each one of us. He will not hand us a stone when we ask for bread. He wants to give us all the things that are most necessary for us and for the salvation of our body AND soul. And so we entrust ourselves to Him, and ask Him for what we truly need.
I for one am convinced that the Holy Spirit is moving right here, in you. I expect the Holy Spirit to still be falling, still descending upon us — upon the People of St. Andrew’s.
I am filled with expectation that Heaven is still open.