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Tuesday, fourth week of Lent

March 8, 2005

Blessed St. John of God’s Day! (look for his story in a neighboring post)

Readings:
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 (the vision of the stream flowing from the temple)
Psalm 46:2-9 “The mighty Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge”
+John 5:1-16 (the Sabbath healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda)

Today we read of healing, life-giving waters that flow from the temple of God. Ezekiel, in exile in Babylon, has a vision of the new Israel, in which a stream flows forth from the temple. This stream is an image of the waters of Baptism, which flow from the temple of God. These waters represent graces which deepen as they flow, as we grow into them, becoming so deep that we can no longer walk through them on our own, but must wholly entrust ourselves to God’s provision. They represent graces which bring healing, fruitfulness and life, not only to us, but to those around us as well. Fish live in these waters, symbolic of new believers. When we live out our Baptismal promises, we will nourish the faith of new believers and draw still more to the Faith. These waters make salt water fresh, indicating that when we draw on the graces of our Baptism, we will have a purifying influence on the putrefaction of the culture around us. We will bring the freshness of the culture of life into a world that’s stinking with the culture of death.

The sick man lying near the pool of Bethesda received life-giving waters too, although not in the way he expected. He grieved that he was unable to go to the healing waters when they were troubled, but the One who gives living water came to him. The sick man wanted to be baptized (immersed) in water that healed the flesh, but Jesus offered him water that heals the soul as well. Yet the sick man did have a role to play. He had to obey Jesus’ command to rise, pick up his bed and walk, and Jesus later warned him to avoid sin, lest something worse befall him. There is a fate worse than 38 years of incapacitating illness. There is a fate worse than death. It’s called separation from God, more commonly known as hell, and it’s a separation we choose whenever we sin.

We have received the graces of Baptism, and every time we bless ourselves with holy water we remind ourselves of the life that God has given us through this Sacrament. In just over two weeks’ time, during the Mass of Easter, we will renew our Baptismal promises, the promises that were made for us (most of us) because we were too young to make them ourselves. Since the ceremony of that day may go by too quickly for us to reflect deeply on what we’re really saying, I thought I’d type in a preview so that we can reflect on them ahead of time. If, upon reflection, we find that our choices do not measure up to what we say we believe, this would be a good time to make some changes. If we’re not sure that this is in fact what we believe, this would be a good time to grow in our understanding of the faith, to seek answers to our questions, and to reflect on the trustworthiness of the One who has revealed these truths to us.
***
Dear friends,
through the paschal mystery
we have been buried with Christ in baptism,
so that we may rise with Him to new life.
Now that we have completed our Lenten observance,
let us renew the promises we made in baptism
when we rejected Satan and his works,
and promised to serve God faithfully
in His holy Catholic Church.

And so:
Priest: Do you reject Satan?
All: I do
Priest: And all his works?
All: I do
Priest: And all his empty promises?
All: I do

OR
Priest: Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?
All: I do
Priest: Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
All: I do
Priest: Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
All: I do

Priest: Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth?
All: I do
Priest: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
All: I do
Priest: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
All: I do

Priest: God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May He also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
All: Amen.
***
May this time of preparation equip us to deepen our commitment to these promises, to draw more effectively on the graces that make us salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in a darkened world.

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