Patrick Novecosky traveled to the Holy Land for Pope Benedict’s visit in May. . .
As the pea gravel crunched beneath my feet, I couldn’t help but think of the Last Supper where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The chalky dust not only coated my shoes, but permeated the air as we walked the path to the spot where tradition says Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
Just an hour outside of Amman, Jordan, my group was about two hours ahead of Pope Benedict’s arrival at the site, part of his four-day visit to the country in May. It was mid-afternoon as the crush of media covering the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land arrived.
I scoped out the best vantage point to see the Holy Father, who was to stop at a platform overlooking the spot designated as the place where John the Baptist christened Our Lord. It wasn’t impressive. Scraggly bushes surrounded the area, a small pond fed by a tributary from the river because the Jordan has narrowed over the centuries. Archeological experts have determined that early Christians built a church to commemorate the spot as the place of Christ’s baptism. When the area flooded, they came back and built again. That resolve has convinced many that this was the biblical site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan described in Jn 1:28 and Jn 10:40.
It was the only time during my nineday press tour of Jordan — which coincided with the Holy Father’s visit — that I stood in the footsteps of Christ. Despite the fact that the site had changed over the centuries, it didn’t take much imagination to see St. John the Baptist with Our Lord as he emerged from the muddy waters only to hear the voice of the Father saying, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.”
Life often throws us curve balls, and sometimes it feels like life is nothing but a tangled ball of string. But thankfully the Gospel message — walking in Christ’s footsteps — is radically simple. In scripture, the last recorded words of Our Lady were: “Do whatever he tells you.” And at the Jordan, God the Father said much the same thing.
Listening to Christ means more than just memorizing the words he spoke during his short 33 years. It means cultivating a real relationship with him. It means surrendering to him so completely that we live as St. Paul who said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” With the help of the Holy Spirit, that kind of intimacy is not only possible, but necessary because at the end of our earthly life He wants it to be our permanent reality. Heaven begins here in this life when we walk in Christ’s footsteps, and it continues when we pass through the veil to our eternal destiny.
Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine. You can read more about his visit to Jordan at his blog: http://patricknovecosky.wordpress.com