The book of Joshua is an interesting book in the Old Testament. Moses has died, and the children of Israel are about to enter the promised land. Before they do so they must cross the Jordan river, but they have no way to cross. It is at this point that we must look at the power of God over nature. In Exodus the Lord parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape Pharaoh. In the book of Joshua God parted the Jordan River. Believe it or not we can learn a lot about baptism from this story.
This can be read in Joshua 3:17 which states, “The priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the Jordan riverbed while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until the whole nation had completed the crossing of the Jordan.” (NABRE). Through baptism one parts the waters and is being led by the New Moses, which is Jesus Christ (Origen page 52). It is Christ, through his priesthood, that leads us into the future.
This is important for those of you who are being baptized. God has shown over and over what he can do in the natural realm. He parted the Red Sea, he provided manna from Heaven, and today He begins a new work in you. Through Baptism you step in the water, just as the twelve tribes did in the book of Joshua, and the waters part. You now follow the priests of Christ into the land of our inheritance (Origen page 53).
Plunging into the Depths of God Passion
Through of your baptism you are dying and rising with Christ. This is a great responsibility, and a great honor. Christ is exalted when you come to the baptismal waters, and he is happy that you are here. Follow Christ and keep him close. Do not fall back into sin and be like the Egyptians who were swallowed up by the Red Sea.
For those of you who were baptized at the Easter Vigil, the journey is just beginning. You answered the call of Christ and were obedient to be baptized, but what now? This is a great time in the church as we welcome new members, but sometimes this is the last we see of some. The simple fact is that some treat the Easter Vigil like a form of Catholic graduation. In the above paragraphs I used some of the imagery that Origen wrote concerning baptism. Baptism was your journey across the Jordan river into the promised last. You are now in a state of grace as all sin has now been washed away. Now is not the time for complacency!
At this point you are probably calling me a buzzkill, but I have been there. When we become complacent, we are a prime target for Satan. He is looking for every opportunity to take us back from Christ. That was me within three years of coming into the church, and I want to provide you with some guidance.
Necessity of Prayer and Reading Scripture
First and foremost, it is imperative that you establish a prayer life. Prayer is our communication with God. Some struggle and think that we need elaborate words or requests, but that is not the case. It can be reflecting on a passage of scripture, the rosary, Lectio Divina, or sitting in a quiet space reflecting on God. Whatever you choose is up to you, but try to have a dedicated space and time set aside every day. Make it part of your routine. There is really not better way to start the day than talking with our creator.
Secondly, make it a habit to read scripture. The Bible is the Word of God and is given to us for instruction. I read an acronym recently that said that the Bible was Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Within its pages you will learn about some of the great men and women that preceded us and how we can learn from them. You will learn more about the life of Christ, and how to live the Christian life. It is a discipline that will help you draw closer to the Lord.
Participate in the Church Community
Thirdly, find a way to get involved in your parish. You are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit at confirmation, and you have a skill and gift that will benefit your parish. Often times people are hesitant because they think that what they are good at is insignificant. No way!
We are a family, and each member of the family has a part in its success. You can join a parish prayer group, bible study, or volunteer to clean the sanctuary. It all matters and is all important. When you get involved you make friends with like minded people who will support you and love you in those times that are not easy.
Thus far much has been said about baptism and some things that may be helpful as you continue the Catholic life. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the point is that is just the beginning. At the Easter Vigil you received the sacraments of initiation. Though you only receive baptism and confirmation once we often reaffirm those commitments as reminders that our journey is never ending. It will only end at the end of our earthly lives. In the example above, Origen writes about the Israelites crossing the Jordan as an allegory for baptism. They didn’t remain the rest of their lives on the shore on the other side of the river. They forged ahead, and that is what regularly receiving the sacraments and being involved in the life of the church allow us to do.
Origen, et al. Homilies on Joshua. Catholic University of America Press, 2002. The Fathers of the Church.