Our witty and intrepid guide, Nasser, has witnessed a lot through the years…as he’s shepherded various groups and pilgrimages throughout Israel.
Even he was surprised, however, to see the water level in the River Jordan today.
Nasser estimates he’s been to the spot of Jesus’ baptism at least 500 times. “Never before have I seen the waters this high,” he told us as we were departing on the bus.
I noted a touch of awe in his tone. Guess that’s the difference between living near a desert…or in my verdant Missouri. In our neck of the woods, the Meramec seems to swell this much two or three times a year.
On the other hand, Nasser didn’t bat an eye when — a few minutes later — he took us past “the Christian school” in the ancient city of Jericho…still decked out in its “Merry Christmas” banner…just a few days before Lent is set to begin.
Nor did it merit a mention when we walked past the neighborhood mosque, also seemingly spruced up for the Yuletide.
The oddities all began flowing together for me as the day wore on. Like the waters bursting the Jordan’s banks, the Christ-light…the Christ energy in Jericho simply could not be contained.
Perhaps because we are under the spiritual care of two Jesuits on this pilgrimage, I was reminded of the beautiful image offered by the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:
“…for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his…”
A city like Jericho has seen a lot in 10,000 years. It’s intriguing to think that Christ might still have some surprises in store — both for those of us who think we know Him well…and for an otherwise indifferent world.
Let us remember that we are in the presence of the Holy and Merciful One.