There are moments in history that take place near or on rivers. In ancient times, the Roman general Caesar, took his legions across the river Rubicon, challenging the authority of the Roman Senate; and won. The Roman Republic became eventually the Roman Empire! On December 25, 1776, General George Washington took his rag tag army across the Delaware River, and attacked the British Hessian force in Trenton, NJ, the following morning. His victory at that battle saved the Continental Army from falling apart, and laid the groundwork for ultimate victory. And then there is the River Jordan. In ancient times, twelve tribes, after wandering in the desert together, crossed the Jordan, and were transformed into a united people. And during the Roman occupation, there was John the Baptist, who on the shores of the Jordan River, was proclaiming that the hoped for Messiah was coming, that now was the time for repentance, a time for change. And the symbol for that was to be bathed in the River, to be washed clean. And there was a growing expectation that the Messiah was coming soon. And then one day, a man from Nazareth arrived on Jordan’s shore, and John recognized him, knew who he was; and John poured the waters of the Jordan over him. And Jesus, saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him, heard his Father voice acknowledging him, “You are my beloved Son.” And the journey began, the work of proclaiming the Good News began.
And the work of salvation continues, Jesus continues the work through us who have also been baptized. On the day of our own baptism, the wound we suffered from Original Sin was healed; we were given new life as adopted children of God; we were all joined together in the Body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters, living together in a holy community that is the Church. We all share in it’s mission, given to us by Jesus, to proclaim the Good News, by our words, our actions; and by the example of our own lives; we are all called to give example to others what it means to be a follower of Christ, by the way we ourselves struggle with our faith; how we, as people of faith, relate to others; our families; friends and neighbors, to strangers, the homeless; the disenfranchised in our society; and to people that are not very nice.
When I read in Isaiah; when the Lord, through the prophet, declares “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind,…” I feel that it is not just the physically blind we are called to open, but also those whose eyes are blinded by prejudice and hatred. To free those who prisoners of greed and selfishness. And to help those who live in the darkness of despair and hopelessness.
That is not to say to that there will not be times when we ourselves may be tempted to give into selfishness, anger, and despair. It is then we should turn to prayer, and the sacraments; namely confession, penance; and the Eucharist, where in we received Jesus Christ through Holy Communion, and are healed and strengthened by his Presence. It is by how we struggle with our own weaknesses and sins; and work to overcome them that we can be at our most prophetic.
Our own baptism is the beginning for each of our own journey of faith. That journey continues, for each of us, each with our own calling, our own approach, to living the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. May the Lord be with all of us on this journey.