My fingers brush the holy water as I enter the church. I’m here for a Gospel meditation, and I linger, imagining the Jordan. Was it shallow or deep, cold or comfortable?
I see John the Baptist and crowds of onlookers. Some have already been baptized; others are making a ruckus with some Pharisees. I try to ignore them, refocusing on Jesus’ mother, who is seated on a large rock under a tree. I approach and sit with her. Next to her is her sister, the one who will stand at the foot of the Cross. I follow Mary’s gaze and see Jesus approaching for baptism.
Mary looks at Jesus with pure love. I recognize that countenance; the same love overwhelms my face when I look at my own children.
I can’t hear what Jesus and John are saying, but John seems to question Jesus. John nods with pursed lips, and gently takes hold of his cousin and plunges Jesus under the water.
“Why is Jesus doing this?” I ask Mary.
“Because he loves. He is doing this out of love,” she says, never taking her eyes off Jesus, and holding her sister’s hand tightly. “I wish John’s mother were alive to see this. Oh, how we laughed and danced when we were pregnant together! She’d join me in rejoicing.”
Jesus stands up in the water and shakes the excess from his long hair and beard. He slogs with soaked clothing to the bank, right where Mary, her sister, and I are seated. I feel cold droplets splash from him onto me.
“You are ready to begin,” Mary tells her son in a maternal tone. “It’s time.”
I watch as Jesus gazes at his mother. I wonder if she told him to come here today. She touches her chest in quiet encouragement and love.
I notice a slight breeze, which causes me to look up at the most amazing clouds I’ve ever seen. A stirring in the crowd tells me that some of the people are noticing something too. Some hear a voice. Others think it’s wind, rustling. For others, it’s an overwhelming theophany. He is here. He is here.I hear Mary echo the words coming from the clouds as I stare at a white dove. “You are my beloved son, too, Jesus,” she says.
“Yes, mother,” Jesus says with reverberating tenderness.
Mary adds, “You are ready for the desert.”
She reminds me of my own mom, who seemed to have a sixth sense as she parented me and my siblings. I imagine Mary as a woman of deep wisdom, already supported by a community represented by her sister. As I witness this conversation between mother and son, something in their radiance tells me that I am beloved too.
Noisy children pull my eyes back to the river. John continues to baptize; the line is longer than before. I stare as I ponder what I’ve just heard Mary and the voice from heaven say: You are beloved. I am pleased with you.When I turn, Mary is standing, watching Jesus walk toward the desert. People don’t seem to notice. Mary’s eyes remain on her son as he heads to where he will be tempted.
I have asked for the grace to live my baptismal call. How will I weather life’s adventures as I am directed to the deserts awaiting me this year?