'Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him.'
Meeting over it was time to go exploring writes Father Mark Madden. We were privileged to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and travel with His Beatitude the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. The journey from Jerusalem to the Jordanian Border isn't long but yet another visible sign of the tensions in this area as we crossed four Israeli Checkpoints.once through and over the border we were met by our Guide, Fr Imad Twal, who serves with me in Old Swan whilst studying at Liverpool Hope University. Our time in Jordan was just a few hours long but our purpose was definite: Baptismal site of Jesus and the American University of Madaba.
For Archbishop Patrick Kelly, visiting the Baptismal Site was to be a special moment as he celebrates his Golden Jubilee of Priesthood, and the events of Jesus' Baptism linked to the beginning of his public ministry was for Jesus his ordination. It was at this very spot that history was made and where for centuries pilgrims have received untold blessings. After becoming lost the site was recently discovered, authenticated and now home to hundreds of thousands of visitors from all different denominations and faiths who seek the blessings of a land graced by great prophets, saints, and the Messiah.
The country can boast the homeland of the Prophet Elijah, and in the northern and central regions Christ performed many miracles and preached. In the Jordan River John baptised Jesus and from here he set out preaching about the Kingdom of God, beginning the public part of his life. John the Baptist appeared at Bethany on the far side of the Jordan River (John 1:28 and John 10:40). John was the last prophet in the manner of the Old Testament prophets and the first prophet of the New Testament. He called the people to repent in preparation for the arrival of Christ and began to baptise in the Jordan River. Fleeing the authorities he made for Bethany beyond the Jordan and would sleep and rest in a cave close to some springs. The Bible states that here people from Jerusalem, Judea and the surrounding regions of the Jordan flocked to John for baptism. Jesus visited John here and was baptised by him.
It is a beautiful area dominated by a number of Christian Churches. The very peaceful river in which you can take a paddle, gives the sense that something important happened here. We were given a brief description by a gentleman who welcomed both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI to the same site and described how the site is becoming more well know and recently visited by the President of Russia. After a short time if silence and a blessing in these sacred waters, we left to continue our journey.
The journey to Madaba was over the spectacular Mount Nebo, a sacred place for Jews and Christians. According to the final chapter of Deuteronomy, Mount Nebo is where the Prophet Moses was given a view of the promised land that God was giving to the Israelites. 'And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho.' (Deuteronomy 34:1). According to Jewish and Christian tradition and the Bible, Moses was buried on this mountain by God Himself, and his final resting place is unknown. The view from the summit provides a stunning view of the Holy Land with Jericho below and Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the distance.
Another reason to visit Jordan was to see the new American University of Madaba. A private university, established by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem with the foundation stone blessed by Pope Benedict, opened its doors in October 2011 with 200+ students and will eventually hold over 8000. AUM is being established with the intention of making a difference in higher education at both the national and regional levels, placing quality education at the top of its priorities. Professor Bart McGetterick, Dean of Education at Liverpool Hope University and a member of our group spoke in great detail to the Vice President of AUM about the challenges of Higher Education and offered a lot of sound wisdom and advice to this brand new venture and dream. The present buildings look impressive but there is still a long way to go. The Archbishop, as Joint President of Liverpool Hope assured AUM of our prayers and support and promised to come back and see when all is complete.
Back brought the numerous border controls to meet our driver to take us back to Jerusalem. We were all impressed with what we saw and especially the way the Catholic Church is trying to make a huge difference to many lives and is a visible sign and presence in the country of Jordan. One day we'll return. Enshallah.