Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Joshua 3:7-10a.11.13-17; Matthew 18:21-19:1)
Thanks to Cecil B. De Mille most people know that the Bible depicts the Red Sea splitting in two so that the Israelites might escape the Egyptian charioteers. Few, however, are aware of the Jordan River parting so the God’s Chosen Ones might enter the Promised Land. The first reading today from the Book of Joshua tells this second story. The responsorial psalm also refers to it. This same psalm is part of the Liturgy of the Hours for Easter Sunday evening which helps us understand the meaning of the event in Christian eyes.
The Church reads the Old Testament as foretelling the person and mission of Jesus Christ. Theologians call such a reading typology. The story of the Ark of the Covenant leading the Israelites through the Jordan is a type for Christ’s bringing his followers into the fullness of God’s kingdom. Jesus is for us the Holy of Holies whose death and resurrection make it possible for us to transverse the otherwise impassible gulf between earth and heaven.
If Jesus facilitates the crossing, then what must we do? Our role in our salvation is both nothing and everything. All that is required of us is to believe in Jesus by following his commands. The gospel demonstrates the paradox of this challenge. You would think it would be nothing for the servant whose master has just written off his large debt to forgive the small debt of a fellow servant. But no, the servant – probably thinking “this is a different case” – punishes his counterpart. We must not do likewise; rather we are to open our hearts to those who genuinely ask forgiveness just as Christ has opened the way to our salvation.