Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Would the Jordan River Tell Us If It Could Talk?

The Jordan River. Now that's a place I'd like to visit.

Today, we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. We remember our own spiritual birth in the waters of Baptism. In addition, we reflect on all those Old Testament prefigurements of this Sacrament.

The Flood. The parting of the Sea. And yes, a lesser known parting - the parting of the Jordan River.

And that's what I want to talk about, because it's a lesson I never would have recognized... before I became Catholic.

What mystery does the Jordan River hold? Let's go back for just a minute...

Jesus and Joshua - did you know that these two names are the same in the Hebrew language?

Well, yes, I might have admitted that striking prefigurement in the OT when I was a Protestant. What else is there?

Did you know that the Israelites crossed the Jordan before they went into the Promised Land, before God gave them the land and did amazing miracles like the one at Jericho? And Joshua was the first one to step into the Jordan? Kind of reveals the significance in their names being the same name, doesn't it!

Yes, I think I knew that back then.

But did you know that Joshua sent the priests into the Jordan before the people were permitted to cross over? That the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant? And that the waters stopped flowing in the moment the priests stepped into the Jordan, so that the Israelites were able to cross on dry land? Did you realize that they crossed over from the desert to Promised Land? Did you know that the waters again flowed the moment the priests stepped out of the riverbed... the moment the priests had carried the Ark of the Covenant to the other side?

No. That, I did not know.

Are you about to do something really important for Jesus Christ? Is your 2011 filled with hope and promise? Is there a possibility that this year will be a year of profound change in your gift of service to God? Do you sense that it is the beginning of a greater pursuit of personal sanctification? Of service? Of evangelization?

Then you had better put on your Catholic glasses and take another look at this passage from Joshua. Think of the Jordan River. You can't make that River part all on your own. You who are Baptized are part of the Family of God. Get yourself rightly-ordered. How? 1. Send Jesus ahead of you. 2. Send the priest ahead of you. 3. Keep your eyes on the New Ark of the Covenant - on Mary. Why? Because the victory - your growth in holiness and your call to share the Good News - depends on this. And if the Jordan River could talk, it would tell you the same thing!

And just in case you are as excited as I am and you want to read the passage from Joshua with New Covenant (Catholic) glasses, here it is:

Joshua 3:7-11,13-17
The Lord said to Joshua, ‘This very day I will begin to make you a great man in the eyes of all Israel, to let them be sure that I am going to be with you even as I was with Moses. As for you, give this order to the priests carrying the ark of the covenant: “When you have reached the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you are to stand still in the Jordan itself” .’ Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come closer and hear the words of the Lord your God.’ Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that a living God is with you and without a doubt will expel the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite and the Jebusite. Look, the ark of the Lord,’ the Lord of the whole earth, is about to cross the Jordan at your head. As soon as the priests with the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, have set their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the upper waters of the Jordan flowing down will be stopped in their course and stand still in one mass.’
Accordingly, when the people struck camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carried the ark of the covenant in front of the people. As soon as the bearers of the ark reached the Jordan and the feet of the priests who carried it touched the waters (the Jordan overflows the whole length of its banks throughout the harvest season) the upper waters stood still and made one heap over a wide space – from Adam to the fortress of Zarethan – while those flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah, that is, the Salt Sea, stopped running altogether. The people crossed opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood still on dry ground in mid-Jordan, and all Israel continued to cross dry-shod till the whole nation had finished its crossing of the river.

Blessed Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

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