Friday, March 22, 2013

Going Back Across the Jordan With Jesus

As we enter more deeply into Passiontide and Holy Week, the readings build in their intensity.  On today, the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Jeremiah writes "I hear the whisperings of many, 'Terror on every side!  Denounce him!  Let us denounce him!'"  The Gospel begins with the words of Jeremiah finding their full import as the crowds pick up rocks to stone Jesus. 

The rejection that Christ experienced must have been intensely painful, especially when it came from his own people.  Jeremiah says, "All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine."  The rejection that Christ experiences must pierce more deeply than any of his physical wounds.  As Lent progresses, Christ's mission seems to be more and more a failure.  Everywhere, he is rejected.  We hear these magnificent accounts of the man born blind, the woman at the well, Lazarus, and the woman caught in adultery, and they are indeed beautiful.  But, from a numbers perspective, they are the few.  The crowds who are rejecting Jesus far outnumber the few.

Jesus must feel this in his soul. It is not simply a matter of them rejecting him.  No, they are seeking to destroy him.  It always hurts us when we say something that is true and somebody doesn't believe us.  It would be all the worse if, when we speak the truth, someone would denounce as a liar.  Imagine, Christ is the Truth and is denounced as a liar.  This must hurt him greatly. 

Jeremiah's description of this trial makes the hatred and rejection almost tangible.  And as the intensity of hatred and rejection build to fever pitch, there is all of a sudden a moment of lightness.  "But, the Lord is with me," says Jeremiah, and just like that, things change.  The Lord's closeness makes everything different.

At the end of the Gospel today, St. John tells us something that seems unimportant (and I'm not scripture scholar), but that I think is very significant.  He writes that Jesus "went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained."  Why does John tell us this?  I think it is so we would do likewise.

All of us who are Christians occasionally will experience rejection, denunciation, abandonment, and the appearance of failure. Like Jeremiah, we want to remember that "the Lord is with me."  Perhaps, the reason that Jesus went back across the Jordan to where John baptized is because that was the place where Jesus was baptized too.  All of us, who experience temptation, rejection, denunciation, and failure should go back to the place where we became God's son or daughter.

When Jesus was baptized, God announced, "This is my Son."  When we were baptized, we too became children of God.  In that moment, we could say, "The Lord is with me."  Jesus perhaps returns to the place of baptism to remind us that when we experience the Cross, we need to have confidence in God's nearness to us.  If we were to be rejected by the whole world--even our friends--we would still be chosen by God.

Lent is about preparing catechumens for baptism and about preparing the baptized for greater fidelity. 
Perhaps Jesus returned to the place of his baptism to teach us. The Way of the Cross may be marked by terror on every side, the whisperings of many, false accusations, violence, and rejection.  If the Christian disciple is to walk this road with Christ and experience the intensity of the rejection, he must first go back across the Jordan and remember his baptism and have confidence in the grace of his baptism.  No matter if the whole world rejects me, on the day of my baptism, God said, "You are my son."  "The Lord is with me."  God has chosen me.  With this knowledge, I can embrace the Cross.

As we approach Good Friday, let us make a brief pilgrimage with Jesus back across the Jordan to the place of our baptism and remember he has chosen you and you are his child.


  1. This was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time. Spiritual direction comes when we pray for it.
    Thank you Father