Christ's Baptism in the Jordan River

Letters from a Pastor to His People- January 10, 2021

Dear Parishioners,

Christ's baptism in the Jordan was a significant event in his life.  One could even make the argument it was "life-changing."  (As I write, I can almost see the seminarians getting out their red pens and licking their chops to circle the heresies in this letter...settle down, boys.)

Christ's baptism was deeply touching for him.  It can be too for us.  Remember, as Columba Marmion says, "Christ's mysteries are our mysteries."

To me, when Jesus is baptized, he becomes fully aware of just how much the human race needs him as a savior.  Yes, he receives the Father's love as he hears the voice from Heaven speak, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).  But Jesus already knew and received that love.  He already "felt" that love poured out to him in the Trinity from all eternity.  So, that's not really "life changing."

But when Jesus comes up out of the waters, and sees how moved John the Baptist is, along with the people on the banks of the Jordan River, including some future apostles, Jesus sees something profound in a new way.  He fully understands how much the people need this; how much the people need a personal God who carries their burdens and loves them.  Jesus had known this perhaps intellectually, but he had never fully felt this in his heart.  At the baptism, he feels the thirst of his flock.

John and the others are as moved by the Father from Heaven as Jesus is.  They are as overjoyed, as delighted, as consoled.  They see Heaven.  They hear God.  They receive an insight into the Divine they had never known.  They know now they have a father.

The people of Israel needed a Father.  They were alone in the dark.  They were burdened, trying to labor and provide for themselves all on their own.  They were suffering.  Imagine a child without a father or a mother. 

With the Baptism of the Lord, the Israelites are no longer orphans.  They are loved.  They are relieved.  This is their great victory.

When Jesus came up out of those waters and the Heavens opened, I imagine the crowd on the banks of the Jordan River erupted with joy.  "You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3).  I imagine a victory parade, like when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup or the Cubs the World Series.  People in utter celebration.  It was the reverse of the base of Mount Sinai when Moses received the 10 Commandments and the people were lost in sinful reverie.  People lost control of themselves on the Jordan River, but in an ecstatic cloud of divine glory.  For with Jesus' baptism they had been set free of their bondage.  They were no longer slaves in the wilderness, but beloved heirs of the King.

If you're feeling burdened or tired or afraid or alone, put yourself on the banks of the Jordan River with the joyous throng.  Let the Father in Heaven speak to you as he spoke to Jesus and that people two thousand years ago.

Tomorrow we have the Monday Evening of Prayer with Eucharistic Adoration from 6-8pm, with confessions at 6:30pm and a talk on prayer at 7:30pm. 

If you would still like to make a donation to the various projects of the church interior, and have your name or the name of a loved one on our memorial plaque in the back of the church, please let me know. 


Yours in Christ,

Fr. James

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