‘Mission accomplished’ could have been the exclamation of John the Baptist, had he been familiar with our modern expressions. From its very beginning, even in the womb, his entire life was dedicated to ‘preparing the way for the Lord’ and announcing the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. The baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan is the official beginning of Jesus’ ministry; but it’s the end of the road for John the Baptist. John’s mission has been fulfilled and there’s nothing more for him to do. Reverting to modern language, it could be said that John the Baptist was ready for retirement.
Here I find myself completely out of my depth. I know nothing about the nuts and bolts of retirement or of life after retirement. I don’t want to insult your intelligence by attempting to be a clever-clogs – many of you have first-hand experience of being retired, and I don’t. Although retirement from active work is one of the most obvious and significant milestones in our lives, it’s not the only one. When you think about it, you’ve gone through various stages in your life. Some of them have morphed smoothly, almost imperceptibly, into each other. Others have come to distinctive and clear-cut conclusions. I’m sure many of us have had moments when something changed dramatically for us and we felt we had reached the end of the road. We found ourselves faced with a dead end.
Such moments can be extremely challenging for us, because we like the security of having a sense of stability and of being in control; we like our little everyday routines and comforts. But these also have the power to dull our vigilance, to render us complacent and spiritually lazy, so that we become increasingly concerned to keep, protect and develop those little comforts of ours for ourselves alone. Those sudden changes or challenges force us out of our comfort zones to confront whatever obstacles we are facing. However surprising, uncomfortable and even unpleasant they may be, they give us the opportunity to reassess our attitudes and priorities. They can help us to reinvent ourselves or to change our direction of travel through life; to be proactive, not reactive.
The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan brought a dramatic change for John the Baptist as well as for Jesus. Each ‘retired’ from his previous life; each found his own new way forward. It’s a similar story with each one of us. There’s so much around us that we can do; there are so many people around us that we can help in so many ways. In fact, we don’t have to wait for the moment when we are roused to action by events beyond our control. We can, and should, be proactive in finding new ways to live our lives. Even when we have retired.
Photo by RitaE