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Tuesday, fourth week of Lent

March 24, 2009

Blessed Tuesday!

Father, May our Lenten observance
prepare us to embrace the paschal mystery
and to proclaim Your salvation with joyful praise.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

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)

Water, water everywhere, teeming with abundant life!

Wait…isn’t our Lenten journey with Jesus all about spending forty days in the desert? Where’s all this water coming from? Isn’t a desert lifeless? Is this a mirage brought on from endless days of searing heat and blinding sun?

“See, I Am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers…
I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland
for My chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for Myself,
that they might announce My praise
(Is 43:19-21–see also Isaiah 35:6 & 41:18)

This is no illusion! We’re getting another foretaste of the new heavens and new earth God’s prepared for us.

“I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east…this water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh…and there shall be abundant fish” (Ezekiel 47:1, 8, 9). The Arabah is the Dead Sea Valley. The “salt waters” are the Dead Sea, the lifeless remains of the horrific sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah! Abundant fish in the Dead Sea?

“Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living Water will flow from within him’ (He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive)” (John 7:38-39). We as Church and as individuals are the temple of God (I Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 2:20-22, 1 Corinthians 3:16) from which the living waters of the Spirit flow. The waters of Baptism are also living waters flowing from the temple of Jesus’ pierced body (John 2:19, 21, John 19:34).

These waters deepen as they flow, as our Baptismal life in the Holy Spirit progresses, until we finally surrender ourselves to them in trusting abandonment because we can no longer touch bottom (see Ezekiel 47:3-5). Wherever they flow, they bring abundant life–even in the Dead Sea of sin! The nourishing, healing trees of the Sacraments sink their roots deep into this water. So do the saints (see Psalm 1:1-3, Jeremiah 17:8). Little fishes (Christians) multiply.

This is what happened at the Sheep Pool. Sin had rendered a man helpless, incapable of even immersing himself in the healing waters, for thirty-eight long years. Then, wonder of wonders, living waters sought him out! “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk!” (John 5:8). The sick man surrendered himself to the waters, to the new life that suddenly surged within his wasted body, picked up his mat and began to walk. It was only a beginning, but what a splendid beginning!

“Some of the Jews began telling the man who had been cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and you are not allowed to carry that mat around’” (John 5:10). He, however, was not about to let them burst his bubble so easily. “It was the man who cured me who told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’” (John 5:11). When you’ve been given a Sabbath rest from the torments of sickness, carrying a mat is not work! Once he learned his healer’s identity, the man returned to the Jewish leaders to again highlight the miracle–and to give Jesus the credit. He was spreading the living waters he’d received (or at least, he was trying to!).

“Remember, now, you have been cured. Give up your sins so that something worse may not overtake you” (John 5:14). These words come to us as well. The living waters of Baptism have cured us from sin and filled us with divine life. The cleansing bath of Confession has made us whole and given us even more divine life. Yet, “sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you” (Genesis 4:6). There is a fate worse than life-long sickness, a fate worse than death! The good news is that, through the power of this living water, “you can be his master” (Genesis 4:6).

May we rejoice in the living waters God lavishes upon us, surrendering to them instead of to sin.

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