The journey to the river had been long and hard and the young man was tired. Seeing it now, after so long, was something of a disappointment to him. It was sluggish and muddy. The banks, sloping upward so sharply that there was no easy access…or approach for that matter. The copper-colored water seemed curiously lifeless, and even the foliage which sprouted right from the water’s edge was dull green. Unhealthy, somehow.
The man he’d come to meet was there at least. No sluggishness or lifelessness in him! This man was vibrant, filled with energy. Filled with anger too, yet somehow with hope.
He had seemingly appeared out of no where. Challenging people to go in a new direction, change their ways, and marking that by a purification ceremony in that dirty water. Crowds had come out for this!
But the roughly dressed man didn’t seem interested in signing up a bunch of followers. He kept saying “one more powerful than I is coming. I’m not worthy even to loosen his sandles.”
And now that One stood before him. Just one more face…in the middle of the crowd. The baptizer turned toward the river, pushing his way through the brush and raising clouds of dust before reaching the narrow bank. He waded into the still water with the traveler close behind him. Their bare feet sank into the soft river bed, and churned up more mud and the smell of decay.
But even this dirty water felt cool and refreshing as it bathed his body. And the traveler’s thoughts raced back…and back…back to a time when all was water, until the words, “Let there be.” And there was.
He closed his eyes and the image changed. Again, everywhere water! And no life. Except for those few faithful, the ones who trusted God
“In the cup of whose hands sailed in ark,
Rudderless, without mast…
Who was to make of the aimless wandering of the Ark
A new beginning for the world…” *
Yet a third time, and the traveler recalled a redeeming of life from a watery death. This time in the Red Sea, a sea of reeds. There was a pathway for some. A gauntlet of death for others. But life and freedom on the other side!
And there was water from the rock…streams in the desert…water for the purification of a thousand priests. And now, this…
As he came up from the water, he felt a oneness with all of it! He knew that he was an inheritor of that Universe which had been prepared for him and for all others. And, he knew that he was God’s Child!
“And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’”
That’s what happened to Jesus of Nazareth on the day of his Baptism in the Jordan River by John. He knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he was God’s Son!
That would be an event worth celebrating, I guess, even if it didn’t have anything much to do with us. But it does. Because you and I share the Baptism of Christ! And the Church’s teaching is that “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as… children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.”
When you and I were baptized, God said to us, “You are my beloved son or daughter, and with you I am well pleased!” And when women and men renew the vows of their baptism in confirmation or reception or reaffirmation, God says the same thing to them, “You are my beloved sons and daughters, and with you I am well pleased.”
Oh, not in everything we do is God pleased. We make mistakes. We consciously sin! And that makes God very sad. But in you, in the essence of you that really is “You,” God is well pleased. God loves you as a daughter or son and, because you share the life of his Incarnate Son, God will never let you go!
That is Good News, beloved! That is the Baptismal Covenant God has made with us and with all the baptized.
It all started with a Baby in a manger…the visit of some wise men…and a Jordan River Baptism!
“Epiphany” – the shining forth of God’s love! To you. And to me.
*Alan Jones, Journey Into Christ, page 37