The Holy Stream — Baptism of the Lord—Year A

When you think of the River Jordan, maybe you imagine something broad, vast, and impressive, like the mighty Mississippi or even the Chippewa River. But the Jordan River is a lot more like Duncan Creek. Ever heard of Duncan Creek? It’s not far from here. Duncan Creek flows out of the south end of Lake Como in Bloomer. You know the bridge between Dairy Queen and the post office? That bridge crosses over Duncan Creek. In terms of size and color, the Jordan River is much like Duncan Creek; small and muddy with shrubs and trees growing along its banks. But unlike the rivers around here in Wisconsin, which are numerous and flow though green and lush countryside, the Jordan is among the few rivers passing through its region’s mostly arid lands. This is the body of water Jesus chose to be baptized in. A humble river of life flowing through a desert. Joshua led God’s Old Covenant people into the earthly Promised Land through this river. And Jesus, the new Joshua, leads God’s New Covenant people to the true Promised Land through holy baptism.

Jesus did not need John’s baptism for himself. John the Baptist sensed this and tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus insists, so John relents, but what is the purpose of his baptism? Jesus is baptized not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, so that this most plentiful substance on the face of the earth could serve as the material for Christ’s gateway sacrament all throughout the world.

Jesus is baptized to allow us, through baptism, to be united to himself. His baptism foreshadows what comes in Christian baptism, what happened for you and me when we were baptized. The water, the decent of the Spirit, and the voice of the Father all signify effects of our first sacrament. Through baptism our souls were cleansed, the grace of the Holy Spirit was imparted to us, and we were acknowledged as a beloved children of God. We might take these things for granted: that sins can be forgiven, that the divine can dwell with us, that we can be more than mere servants, or slaves, or distant acquaintances to the transcendent God of the universe. That we can be treasured sons and daughters of God our Father. We need to remember and appreciate these things, for what goes unappreciated can be neglected to our loss.

The Jordan River flows about one hundred and fifty miles on the eastern border of Israel, south from the Sea of Galilee into the Dead Sea. These physical bodies of water contain a spiritual allegory. The Sea of Galilee is a large lake. Its fresh water, full of fish, pours out as the Jordan River. And this river, flowing through the arid desert, blesses its shores with life. But once these waters descent seven hundred vertical feet down into the Dead Sea, to the lowest place on earth, the water has no place else to go. So there the water sits, evaporating away in the heat, leaving its trace amounts of salt behind, causing the Dead Sea today to be an intensely salty sea in which no plants, nor fish, nor any other visible life lives.

The pure waters from above, received from the holy stream, bear no life in this recipient. Likewise, the sacraments offer grace from Heaven above, through Jesus Christ the stream of living water, but in the unrepentant soul they bear no life. Even a priest, baptized, confirmed, and ordained, saying the Mass every day, can be spiritually dead, causing spiritual harm to many, if he does not turn away from mortal sin. If you are in mortal sin, for God’s sake, for your sake, and for the sake of those around you, repent and be reconciled to God through his Sacrament of Confession. Jesus desires us to flow with his graces as a great blessing to others in this spiritually-arid world.

The words of Isaiah in our first reading point to Jesus, but because of your baptism you are in Christ. So Isaiah’s inspired words are spoken to every soul in a state of grace:

Thus says the Lord:
“You are my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit;
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you… a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement [and darkness.]”

You might not be called to cry out or shout, making your voice heard in the streets, breaking this and crushing that. But Jesus wants to use you as his powerful instrument to do transforming good in this world. Jesus is still quietly saving souls through his faithful ones, who receive his graces and pour them forth for others. Let this be you, for Him, and for many.

One Response to “The Holy Stream — Baptism of the Lord—Year A”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    I LOVE the comparison of the soul in mortal sin to the Dead Sea! Genious–SO TRUE! Preach it, Father :)!!!

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