Although we look at life as linear, beginning with birth and ending with death and whatever lies beyond, this is not the correct view. In this view there is movement from one place on the line to the next in forward progression. There are opportunities for new beginnings and second chances in life which would not be possible in a linear progression.
In the First Reading for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt”. And so that place is called Gilgal to this day” (Joshua 5:9). Gilgal, as a noun, means a round place.
As a verb, Galal means to roll something on or away. There is, therefore, a play of words here, intended to convey that the past dark spot of the previous generation which left Egypt and rebelled against the Lord while wandering in the wilderness has been purged. The generation led by Joshua is therefore experiencing a new beginning.
This new beginning is characterized by the Crossing of the River Jordan, similar to the Crossing of the Red Sea. Joshua set up the 12 memorial stones after the crossing. Further, from this new beginning, the people will now harvest produce from the land; and living on manna comes to an end. Additionally, in preparation for the first celebration of Passover in the Promised Land, Joshua circumcises the Israelites just as the generation that left Egypt did under Moses.
It was at Gilgal that Saul was crowned king over Israel, and it was there too that he was rejected. Later, during Absalom’s revolt against his father, King David fled to exile in Jordan. When he returned, he was received by the people of Israel at Gilgal. It was also from Gilgal that Joshua conducted his campaigns for the possession of the land.
Gilgal becomes, therefore a place and symbol of a second chance and a new beginning. God offers that new beginning and that second chance. In the Gospel Reading, the Parable of the Prodigal Son highlights the new beginning even for the most rebellious.
This is not a matter of religion but of life in its wholeness. It is true that the Universe is self-correcting. It does replenish where a deficit occurs. We too, as integral parts of the Universe, have the capacity to flourish goodness where evil seems to persist.