Reversing the Flow

The Sea of Galilee, which is fed by snowmelt and mountain springs with fresh water, feeds the Jordan River, which flows past the town of Adam down into the Dead Sea (Salt Sea of the Arabah). The word “Galilee” in Hebrew is translated as “roll” or “circle.” It symbolizes new generation and sustained life. It is around this sea, close by in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up in His Holy Family, in nearby Cana where He performed His first miracle, and in Capernaum next to the sea where He began His public Ministry. And, it is in this sea that He built up the faith of Peter and the apostles with the miracle of the generation and catch of fish. So many of Jesus’ gifts given on Earth flowed from Him around this sea.

The word “Jordan” in Hebrew means “to go down.” This river goes down from a place of generation (Galilee) to a place of death (The Dead Sea), and as it flows southward, on its East bank lies “Adam, a city in the direction of Zarathen,” which is place of oppression (Joshua 3:16). To what extent does this geographical context represent the metaphysical context that each person exists in? God’s generation (Galilee), in going down (Jordan) beside us (Adam) who are oriented towards oppression (Zarathen), is selfishly indulged in, taken, or abused and flows into a place of death (Dead Sea). Yet today’s readings show clearly that this is not the only way.

Not the Only Way

The Lord said to Joshua: “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses. Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to come to a halt in the Jordan when you reach the edge of the waters” (Joshua 3:8). There is a sense of excited apprehension in reading this verse, God indicates that the exultation of His people is about to begin. Though the Israelites are imperfect and corruptible, God, who loves His children with an everlasting love, is now beginning to exalt His beloved with clear and radical generosity. The Israelite people have spent nearly 40 years in the desert, shaking off the effects of their slavery, longingly trusting the promise in their hearts made to them that they would be brought to the promised land.

“No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan… than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up… from Adam, a city… while those flowing downstream toward the Dead Sea disappeared entirely” (Joshua 3:15-16). This is such a significant occurrence, “The Lord of the whole earth,” by His power and authority, commands the flow of sin from Adam to death be stopped.

By his priests, he precedes His beloved people into this flow, which has been corrupted by sin, to make a way for them to go from the desert land of the Moabites and Ammonites (translated “Who is your Father?”) to enter the promised land which will eventually become the great kingdom of Israel (Translated “God contends”), and more specifically the land of Judah (meaning “praise”). With this amazingly orchestrated scriptural revelation, God prospectively reflects the plan of our redemption.

Plan of Redemption

In coming to Jesus, Peter asks: “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus, in His divine Wisdom, responds in a way which seems to raise to a higher standard His Israelite people of old: “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21). Jesus takes the cultural expectation for just action of the Israelite people as represented by Peter, and stretches it to a great, and even infinite extent. Jesus, as stated earlier in Matthew “Has not come to abolish them [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). No longer Does God act only as one who stops the flow of corruption from Adam into Death as a barrier, to merely preserve His people from death, but now He has entered fully into that corrupted flow to become a conduit of death unto life. Jesus invites us to go into this place with Him: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). To do this, we must imitate Christ, we must suffer well and forgive all perceived injustices towards ourselves from the heart, for otherwise the Father will justly and mercifully hand us over to the torturers, and we will be forever in death (Matthew 18:35).

Ask Jesus to include you in His redemptive flow-reversing acceptance of suffering and He will surely give you the opportunity.

Photo credit below:

[Readings: Jos 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17; Mt 18:21–19:1]

Matthew Kelly

Leave a Comment