Monthly Archives: January 2022

Faith Breaks Boundaries

Jesus heals the man with the withered hand. J.Tissot

In the next few readings from Mark this week the Pharisees challenge Jesus. His hungry disciples eat some grain from a field on a Sabbath day. (Mark 2: 23-28} Then, in a synagogue on a Sabbath Jesus heals a man with a withered hand.  (Mark 3: 1-6) The Pharisees object and look for help from the “Herodians”.

Today the Pharisees may seem to us to be a small-minded group opposed to Jesus throughout his ministry. Yet, in his time they were seen differently. They were considered the “real” Jews, faithful people who kept the law and took care of their neighbors.They went to the synagogue, said their prayers, kept the Sabbath, and followed religious customs. They weren’t afraid to say they were Jewish, even the clothes they proudly wore told you who they were. 

They were the “good Christians” of their day. They believed they saw things and did things right. But Jesus called them blind. Their blindness appears especially in the way they looked down on others. Think of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector in the temple. 

We learn a great deal about faith watching the Pharisees. Faith is not simply intellectual conviction or good conduct. It’s not simply knowing your catechism and keeping the church laws. Faith leads to “boundary-breaking activity.” Think of the four men who broke through Peter’s roof to lower the paralyzed man to see Jesus; they disturbed the order of that house. Jesus’ choice of Matthew, the tax-collector, disturbed the model for leadership. Jesus healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath broke the order of that day. 

Faith breaks boundaries, the Gospel of Mark indicates.

Yet, let’s not look down on the Pharisees either. We need to keep the laws and say our prayers and be proud of who we are. Actually, couldn’t we use more of that these days? 

A Cloud of Witnesses

As we remember Jesus Christ , we should also remember the saints who follow him. Reading the Gospel of Mark this week as he confronts opposition, let’s remember a young girl, Agnes, and a soldier, Sebastian, who made him known to early Christians by following him into the mystery of his death and resurrection. They tell us we can witness to him in our time.

Mark’s Gospel this week says the scribes, Pharisees and Herodians saw Jesus as a danger to their society and brought him to his death. Roman judges and leaders saw Agnes challenging the norms of their world, and Sebastian betraying their military code. They must die. Their stories correspond well with Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee and his eventual death and resurrection in Jerusalem.They were treated unjustly.

The two Roman martyrs must also have faced rejection by their own families and friends, as Jesus faced rejection in Nazareth. Jesus is not the only one who bears the mystery of the Cross; his followers bear it too. In fact, it’s part of everyone’s life.

Yet Mark’s Gospel sees Jesus going forward, still drawing crowds, still casting out demons, forging ahead to new ground in spite of opposition. The mystery of the Cross leads to Resurrection and the coming of God’s kingdom. It does not end in death.

Nor do the stories of martyrs end in death; they share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.“ If you can have some share in the sufferings of Christ, be glad, because you will enjoy a much greater gladness when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13-14) The martyrs follow the Suffering Christ–as one sees already in the story of first martyr, Stephen, so carefully crafted to show Stephen following Jesus.

Waiting for an executioner’s sword in the arena, Agnes also sees the heavens open and with arms outstretched says: “ I pray to you, holy Father; behold, I am coming to you, whom I have loved, whom I have sought, whom I have always desired.”

Read the scriptures. Also remember the saints, young girls and soldiers, men and women from every time and place, who heard the same Word we do and believed in that Word. They say : “Follow him.”

Does God Care About Politics?

Story of David. Morgan Library, NY

Watching the fierce battles in our political world today we ask: Does God care about politics? Or does he keep out of it and want us to keep out of it too? Our reading from the Book of Samuel today says God cares about the world of politics.

“Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way,” God says to Samuel, “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” Samuel goes through all of Jesse’s sons, but none fit the bill. “Not him, not him, not him,” God says as one after another are brought to Samuel. “Are these all the sons you have?” Samuel asks.

Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” “Send for him,” Samuel says, “we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” So David is brought to them, ” ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance.”

The LORD said, “There–anoint him, for this is he!”

Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers;   ‘and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.” (I Samuel 16,1-13)

“Anoint him, there he is,” God says. The prophet pours the horn of olive oil on David. What does the oil signify? A power not his own, a power that is God’s grace, to lead his people. The grace of God is needed to lead.

We are told to keep into the world of politics. It can be messy, uncertain, sometimes going nowhere world. But it’s part of God’s world and God’s plan. Not all of God’s plan, of course. Politics can’t become the only thing, which some think it is. Nor can we avoid it, as some unfortunately do.

We have to be engaged in the politics of our day. We’re also told to pray that our leaders– and ourselves– receive God’s grace.

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed your glory to all nations.
God of power and might, wisdom and justice,
through you authority is rightly administered,
laws are enacted, and judgment is decreed.

Assist with your spirit of counsel and fortitude
the President of these United States,
that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be useful to your people over whom he presides.

May he encourage due respect for virtue and religion.
May he execute the laws with justice and mercy.
May he seek to restrain crime, vice, and immorality.

Let the light of your divine wisdom
direct the deliberations of Congress,
and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed
for our rule and government.
May they seek to preserve peace, promote national happiness, and continue to bring us the blessings of liberty and equality.

We pray for the governor of this state 

for the members of the legislature,
for judges, elected civil officials,
and all others who are entrusted to guard our political welfare.
By your powerful protection, may they discharge their duties with honesty and ability.

We likewise commend to your unbounded mercy
all citizens of the United States,
that we be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of your holy law.

May we be united in that peace which the world cannot give and, after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

We pray to you, who are Lord and God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

(Adapted from a prayer for the inauguration of George Washington by Archbishop John Carroll, first Catholic bishop in the United States)

Praying for Christian Unity

We celebrate a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity every year from the 18th to the 25th of January.

Pope Francis, speaking recently to an ecumenical delegation from Finland, said that we, like the Magi, whom tradition represents as representatives of diverse cultures and peoples, Christians today are “challenged to take our brothers and sisters by the hand… and move forward together.”

Some of the journey together is easier than others, the pope noted, like works of charity together, for example. which draw us closer not only to the poor but to one another.

On the other hand, the journey toward full unity is sometimes more difficult, which “can lead to a certain weariness and temptation to discouragement.

The Pope encouraged Christians to remind themselves “that we are making this journey not as those who already possess God, but as those who continue to seek Him.” He called for courage and patience along the way, in order to encourage and support one another.

The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council.” (Decree on Ecumenism n.1). Ecumenism affects the mission of the church, because the division of Christians prevents the preaching of the gospel and deprives many people of access to the faith” (Ad Gentes, n. 6). Divisions among Christians cause a confusion that hinders people from accepting the gospel today.

Passionist Father Ignatius Spencer, an early pioneer in ecumenical activity, strongly urged more prayer together. Might be a good idea to consider . How can we do it?

The Cross of Confusion

Mark’s Gospel describes growing numbers following Jesus in Galilee as he begins his ministry, but growing numbers also find him hard to understand, the gospel says.

VATICANCRUC

Scribes come from Jerusalem and say he has a demon, the Pharisees begin to plot with the Herodians, the followers of Herod Antipas about putting him to death. When they hear about him in Nazareth, his relatives say, “No, he doesn’t have a demon. He may be out of his mind,” and they come to bring him home.

Besides the leading elite and people from his hometown, ordinary people begin to distance themselves too. They may be the people in Mark’s Gospel today who question him “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Mark 2, 18-22) Not only Jewish leaders and scholars, not only his own family and his hometown, but ordinary people of Galilee find him too much for them.

Jesus brought change, radical change, and change can be hard to accept. Many who heard him weren’t ready for new wine, they preferred the old.

Commentators describe Mark’s gospel as a Passion Narrative with a prelude. In other words, Mark’s early stories announce the story of his Passion and Death and Resurrection. Jesus dies alone, forsaken by many ordinary people who flocked to him at first.

Commentators also see Mark’s gospel written to help the Christians of Rome facing a surprising brutal persecution by Nero in the mid 60s. Rome usually singled out Christian leaders in times of persecution, but this persecution seemed to strike at ordinary Christians as well. The senseless, arbitrary persecution left Rome’s Christians confused and wondering what this all meant. Mark’s account reminds his followers they must follow him without always understanding.

Confusion and lack of understanding are part of our world today, aren’t they? We are living in a time of rapid changes. For many, the old wine, the “old days” are better.

The Cross of Jesus may not come as hard wood and nails. As in Mark’s Gospel, it can come in confusion and lack of understanding. A Cross hard to bear.

Anthony of Egypt

temptation anthony copy

January 17th is the memorial of Anthony of Egypt, a saint representing the important early saints and spiritual tradition of Egypt. He influenced St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, as well as modern spiritual authors like Thomas Merton.

Anthony offered himself as a martyr during a 3rd century Roman persecution of Christians in Alexandria, his biographer St. Athanasius says, but they ignored him, and so he turned to the martyrdom of everyday.

There’s a martyrdom every day, and every day we’re tempted, Anthony realized. But don’t fear the trials you face. That was Anthony’s advice to those seeking his counsel. Artists like Martin Schongauer (above) portrayed Anthony surrounded by his temptations, but the saint is not afraid. Know your temptations, he said, and God will lead you from them.

Anthony abu

Anthony’s life helped many, among them St. Augustine, to steer through the temptations they faced. Here’s a simple version of Anthony’s battle with temptation as Athanasius describes them:

“Those who follow Jesus should expect temptation; Anthony experienced a range of them over the hundred years of his life. The devil knocked regularly on the door of his heart, assuming different faces and making different suggestions, but this shy, gentle man was not conquered.

“In the early years Christ called him, he often thought: ‘Have I made a mistake?’ The days were so slow and monotonous, nothing important going on. ‘Am I doing anything with my life?’ he wondered.

“One day, weary of it all, he left his house and opening his arms wide cried to heaven: “Lord, what should I do?” For awhile, nothing but silence. Then, Anthony heard someone moving behind him. Turning, he saw someone like himself, getting up from his bed, saying his prayers, eating his meals, doing his work, welcoming some visitors, and finally saying his prayers and going to sleep. Just as he did everyday.

“God’s angel answered his prayer, Anthony realized. He was beginning to think ordinary life had no meaning. But that’s where treasure is; life is holy ground. Ask God to see it, and don’t give up. Anthony went back to his life again.

“Other temptations beset Anthony. Sometimes he worried about his health. If he got sick, who would care for him? He had chosen to live for God alone. Wouldn’t it be better to have a family to support you? He gave so much to others and kept so little for himself. Wouldn’t it be better to be a rich man? Lustful thoughts sometimes filled his mind.

“Temptations swept over his soul like dust storms, causing confusion and uncertainty. But in the storms, Anthony learned another lesson: Christ is always with you.

“One restless night, Anthony was almost pulled to pieces by violent temptations. Monsters and demons were everywhere, flying through his room shouting and screaming, ready to kill him. He was about to give up hope when a beautiful light shone through the roof of his house and the demons disappeared. In the peaceful light, he saw Christ.

“Lord, where were you when I was being tried?” Anthony said.
“I was right here all the time you struggled,” Jesus replied. “My hand was on you as your helper.”

“After that ordeal, Anthony experienced peace for a while. Then, one day he heard a knock at his door and, opening it, saw a little man grinning from ear to ear, bowing to the ground before him as if he were king.

“You are a saint, Anthony,” he said ingratiatingly. “Everyone says so. People say you’re wiser and better than anyone on earth. So, tell me everything you have to say and everything you know; you’re just perfect.”

“Anthony slammed the door in the little man’s face. “You’re more dangerous than any temptation I’ve had, because you want me to believe I’m God, and I’m not. You are the temptation of pride.”

“Gradually over the years, people discovered this man with so much hard earned wisdom. Soon , from everywhere people were coming for his advice and his prayers and his healing for themselves or someone they loved. Because he knew himself so well, Anthony knew their hearts too.

“One constant message he repeated again and again to those who came to him, ‘Don’t be afraid, live joyfully in God’s grace. Never give up. God delivers us from temptation.’”

JANUARY 17-23: FEASTS AND READINGS

JANUARY 17-23: FEASTS AND READINGS

JANUARY 17 Mon Saint Anthony, Abbot Memorial 1 Sm 15:16-23/Mk 2:18-22 

18 Tue Weekday 1 Sm 16:1-13/Mk 2:23-28 

19 Wed Weekday 1 Sm 17:32-33, 37, 40-51/Mk 3:1-6 

20 Thu Weekday[St Fabian; St Sebastian] 1 Sm 18:6-9; 19:1-7/Mk 3:7-12 

21 Fri Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr Memorial1 Sm 24:3-21/Mk 3:13-19 

22 Sat USA: Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

2 Sm 1:1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27/Mk 3:20-21)

23 SUN THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10/1 Cor 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27/Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21 

The readings from Mark this week show growing opposition to Jesus as local officials,  scribes from Jerusalem, officials from Herod Antipas and even his own family oppose him. After an enthusiastic beginning of his ministry, Jesus faces the mystery of the Cross.

The Old Testament readings from the Book of Samuel speak of the rivalry between Saul and David. 

The feast of Anthony of Egypt, a key figure in monasticism, is celebrated on Monday. St. Agnes, an early Roman martyr, is remembered on Friday. 

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time: c Cana in Galilee

For this week’s homily please watch the video below.

After his Baptism in the Jordan River Jesus began his ministry in Galilee. The four gospels offer three different places where Jesus began his ministry. Matthew and Mark say it was in Capernaum, a town along the Sea of Galilee where Jesus performed a series of outstanding miracles.Mark’s Gospel emphasizes the miracles he worked there, Mathew his preaching.

Luke indicates Jesus began his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth when he read from the Prophet Isaiah and proclaimed he was fulfilling what the prophet promised.  

John’s Gospel today has Jesus beginning his ministry at a marriage feast in Cana in Galilee when Jesus changed water into wine. 

Cana and Nazareth are two small towns in Galilee a few miles apart, yet closely related.They played an important role in Jesus’ early life. He was raised in Nazareth and he performed the first sign of the promised kingdom to come in Cana.  (John 2, 1-12)

The two towns weren’t thought much of in Jesus’ day. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” The same could be said about Cana. Nazareth is located on top of a mountain in upper Galilee; Cana is just down from it on the plain of Esdraelon. 

The couple whose wedding Jesus, his mother and disciples attended were probably farmers from Cana, relatives or friends of Mary and Jesus.  It was a wedding in a small town that took place over some days. like other weddings then. Those who came had to be put up and fed. It was a family embarrassment if anything spoiled the occasion. 

It looks like that was about to happen when the wine for the celebration ran out. “They have no wine,” Mary said to Jesus, her Son. 

Jesus turned large jars of water into wine and it was a better wine than before.  The “first sign” John points to in his gospel is a miracle, yes, but it doesn’t seem to compare to the other “signs” in John’s Gospel, like the raising of Lazarus from the dead or new sight given the blind man. 

Did others notice what happened besides the head waiter? Did most think, perhaps, the new wine was from choice reserves the family drew upon? 

The celebration probably took three days, at least, and Jesus must have been there with his mother and disciples all those days. Just part of the celebration.

Were they signs of God’s ordinary presence in life, God’s unnoticed presence? Is the wedding feast of Cana a sign of God love for places like Cana, for its ordinary people, for couples who names we do not know?

God loves everyplace, everything, everybody, small as they are. God delights in the Canas of this world and the people living in them. Jesus not only brought good wine to that wedding, but he stayed for the feast as a sign of the ordinary presence of God.

Our reading from Isaiah today seems to indicate that. It describes God as a bridegroom taking Israel, small as she is, as a bride:

“No more shall men call you ‘Forsaken’

or your land ‘desolate’.

But you shall be called ‘ My delight’

and your land ‘espoused’

for the Lord delights in you

and makes your land his spouse.

As a young man marries a virgin,

your builder shall marry you,

and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride

so shall your God rejoice in you.”

Those words were fulfilled when Jesus came to the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. He was a sign of God rejoicing, delighting in his people, at home with them. He was a sign of the ordinary presence of God.

Believing for Others

The healing of the paralytic told in today’s gospel from Mark is a great story.(Mark 2: 1–12) Four friends bring him to the door of Peter’s house in Capernaum but the crowds are so dense that they can’t get in to see Jesus so they climb up on the roof, cut a hole in it and lower him down before Jesus. Was the paralyzed man conscious, or half conscious? We don’t know.

What ingenuity! What nerve! What determination on the part of his friends! Think of the logistics involved in it all. The pictures here show the ruins of Peter’s house now enclosed in a shrine and a picture from the shrine looking down into the house–possibly just where the man was lowered down.

We know Jesus forgave the man’s sins and then healed him completely, so he left the house carrying the mat that once bore him. The gospel wants us to recognize that Jesus the healer is Jesus who forgives sins. But some who heard his words of forgiveness that day were shocked by this action which they rightly judged was divine.

But I’m led back to the four friends who had a part in this miracle. Let’s not forget them. They believe and their belief makes them go to extraordinary lengths to  help another .  We believe for others as well as for ourselves. Faith reaches out; it doesn’t remain within.  Believing prompts us to do daring things.

Back to Peter’s house. Did Peter look up that day and say, “Who’s going to pay for that hole in the roof?” The story of the paralyzed man is a wonderful story. But it also has an ominous part to it. Scribes, sitting in judgment, call him a blasphemer for pronouncing sins are forgiven. Opposition to Jesus begins to build that leads to his death.

Waters of the Jordan and the Sea

The land where Jesus lived spoke to him and inspired so many of the parables he taught. Did the water speak to him too? Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized Mark’s Gospel says, and he heard his Father’s voice and the Spirit rested on him. His ministry continued around the Sea of Galilee. The towns he visited were there; he taught on its shores. He traveled its waters and encountered its storms. He called disciples there.

Pilgrims today still look quietly on those waters when they visit this holy place. From the mountains above, the Sea of Galilee becomes a stage for gospel stories heard before. The waters of the Jordan flowing into it and out on their way to the Dead Sea remind them how realistic the mysteries of faith are. Fishermen, along with cormorants and herons, still fish the waters. At night, a stillness centuries old, takes over.

.Jesus began his ministry here. This land and its waters spoke to him.

The Jordan River figures in many of scriptures’ sacred stories and it’s still vital to this land today. It winds almost 200 miles from its sources at the base of the Golan mountains in the north into the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea in the south. The direct distance from one end to the other is only about 60 miles. The river falls almost 3,000 feet on its way to the Dead Sea,.

The Jordan is sacred to Jews from the time they miraculously crossed it on their way to the Promised Land. The great Jewish prophet Elijah came from a town near the river’s banks. Later he found safety from his enemies there.

Elijah’s successor, the Prophet Elisha, also from the Jordan area, told Naaman a Syrian general to bathe in the river to be cured of his leprosy, and he was cured. Ancient hot springs near Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee fostered the river’s curative reputation then. They’re still used today.

At the time of Jesus, the river’s fresh flowing waters were the life-blood of the land, making the Sea of Galilee teem with fish and the plains along its banks fertile for agriculture. Pilgrims from Galilee were guided by the Jordan on their way to Jericho and then to Jerusalem and its temple.

The Jordan Today

The river is still essential to the region. Lake Kineret, as the Israelis call the Sea of Galilee, is the primary source of drinking water for the region and crucial for its agriculture. The use of water from the Jordan is a major point of controversy between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

cf: “The Disputed Waters of the Jordan” by C. G. Smith Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers No. 40 (Dec., 1966), pp. 111-128 Oxford, England.

Nourishing Prophets

The Jordan nourished prophets in the past.  Somewhere near Jericho where people forded the river John the Baptist preached to and baptized pilgrims going to the Holy City. The place where John baptized was hardly a desert as we think of it. It was a deserted place that offered sufficient food for survival, like the “ grass-hoppers and wild honey” John ate, but this uncultivated place taught you to depend on what God provided.

Jesus taught this too. “I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Mt 6, 25 ff) The desert was a place to put worry aside and trust in the goodness of God.

When Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan to be baptized, he acknowledged his heavenly Father as the ultimate Source of Life, the creator of all things. Water, as it always is,  was a holy sign of life.  Like the prophets Elijah and John the Baptist, Jesus remained in this wilderness near the water for forty days to prepare for his divine mission. He readied himself to depend on God for everything.

The Jordan after Jesus

Later, when the Roman empire turned Christian in the 4th century, Christians came to the Jordan River in great numbers on Easter and on the Feast of the Epiphany to remember the One who was baptized there. They went into the sacred waters, and many took some of it home in small containers.

Early Christian pilgrims like Egeria, a nun from Gaul who came to the Holy Land around the year 415 AD, left an account of her visit to the Jordan where she looked for the place of Jesus’ baptism.  Monks who had already settled near the river brought her to a place called Salim, near Jericho. The town, associated with the priest Melchisedech, was surrounded by fertile land which had a revered spring that flowed into the Jordan close by. Here’s how she described it:

“We came to a very beautiful fruit orchard, in the center of which the priest showed us a spring of the very purest and best water, which gives rise to a real stream. In front of the spring there is a sort of pool where it seems that St. John the Baptist administered baptism. Then the saintly priest said to us: ‘To this day this garden is known as the garden of St. John.’ There are many other brothers, holy monks coming from various places, who come to wash in that spring.

“The saintly priest also told us that even today all those who are to be baptized in this village, that is in the church of Melchisedech, are always baptized in this very spring at Easter; they return very early by candlelight with the clergy and the monks, singing psalms and antiphons; and all who have been baptized are led back early from the spring to the church of Melchisedech.” p 73

A 19th Century Pilgrim at the Jordan

Christians in great numbers have visited the Jordan River since Egeria. Towards the end of the 19th century, an English vicar, Cunningham Geikie, described  Christian pilgrims following the venerable tradition of visiting its waters.

“Holy water is traditionally carried away by ship masters visiting the river as pilgrims to sprinkle their ships before a voyage; and we are told that all pilgrims alike went into the water wearing a linen garment, which they sacredly preserved  as a winding sheet to be wrapped around them at their death.

“The scene of the yearly bathing of pilgrims now is near the ford, about two miles above the Dead Sea, each sect having its own particular spot, which it fondly believes to be exactly where our Savior was baptized…

“Each Easter Monday thousands of pilgrims start, in a great caravan, from Jerusalem, under the protection of the Turkish government; a white flag and loud music going before them, while Turkish soldiers, with the green standard of the prophet, close the long procession. On the Greek Easter Monday, the same spectacle is repeated, four or five thousand pilgrims joining in the second caravan. Formerly the numbers going to the Jordan each year was much greater, from fifteen to twenty thousand….”(Cunningham Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible,Vol 2, New York, 1890 pp 404-405)

The Jordan and Christian Baptism

Today, every Catholic parish church at its baptistery celebrates the mystery of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan as new believers receive new life and regular believers remember their own baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some eastern Christian churches prefer calling their baptisteries simply “the Jordan.”

Today the most authentic site of Jesus’ Baptism, according to archeologists, is in Jordanian territory at el-Maghtas, where a large church and pilgrim center has been built following excavations begun in 1996 by Jordanian archeologists. It is probably the  “Bethany beyond the Jordan” mentioned in the New Testament where Jesus was baptized and John the Baptist preached.

http://www.lpj.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=599%3Achurch-of-the-baptism-of-jesus-christ-maghtas-project-jordan&catid=81&Itemid=113&lang=en

The Jordan River offers a commentary on the mystery of death and resurrection of Jesus, expressed in his baptism.  At one end of the river is the Sea of Galilee brimming with life, and at the other end is the Dead Sea a symbol of death. The river holds these two realities together, and if we reverse its course we can see the gift God gives us through Jesus Christ.

Like him, we pass through the waters of baptism from death to life.