I must have a lot of time on my hands these days, because every once in a while…I find myself wondering why Jesus chose Galilee as headquarters for his public ministry.
Sure, Galilee is a pleasant enough place (as backwaters go). But the world brims with far more beautiful settings. So why not pick one of them as “home base”?
Hearing today’s Gospel, I was reminded of one very good reason for Jesus to have set up shop where he did. This part of the world, you see, is one of the lowest spots on earth – about 600 to 650 feet below sea level, on average.
Among other things, that makes Galilee a great place to experience thunder…to see and hear “the heavens being torn open.” Gerri and I learned that first-hand in early 2019, as we made our pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When a storm rolls over the hills…and then rumbles across the Sea of Galilee…you can actually feel it in your bones. The topography acts like a massive sub-woofer, significantly amplifying atmospheric sounds.
I’m guessing the same would be true for the voice of God. This is no mere thunderclap, after all — so when God speaks aloud over the Jordan River valley, you’re probably gonna pay attention.
And what, exactly, do we hear the Holy One saying as Jesus rises up from the waters of his baptism in the Jordan?
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
More importantly, what do we see the Holy One doing in this riveting scene?
Surely, God is endorsing the work that Jesus is about to undertake – the proclamation of the Kingdom. God sees (and is pleased by) Jesus’ obedience to God’s will.
But beyond endorsing, isn’t God also surrendering his Only Begotten Son to us?
That act of divine surrender struck me like a thunderbolt…as I meditated on the great mystery we celebrate in our liturgy this Sunday. Surely an omnipotent God could have found some other way to set us free from our sinfulness – some way other than surrendering…to us…a beloved child.
Yet, this is precisely the model of salvation that the Triune God offers with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan – a model of trustful obedience and surrender.
And wouldn’t you know it?
God chose to make this point…at the best spot on earth…for ensuring that the Word would be heard.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.