12 March. Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent
All members of the ACP are most welcome to contribute Homily Resource material to this website.
Two paragraphs are fine for weekdays; a little more for Sundays. If possible, send it to me at least a week in advance of the date on which it applies. Send it to: rogers AT mountargus.ie
Ez 47:1ff. Life-giving water from the temple irrigates the surrounding desert.
Jn 5:1ff. At the pool beside the Sheepgate, Jesus heals a paralysed man.
First Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.
Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist.
Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?” Then he led me back along the bank of the river.
As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.
On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the waterfor them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Gospel: John 5:1-3, 5-16
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids – blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
Beside Living Waters
Ours is an age of pollution and crisis. Earth’s air and water are becoming so contaminated that many fear an ecological crisis on various fronts, with global warming as the main symptom. In this context the fresh-water image painted by Ezekiel has all the more appeal for us today. Only by the mercy of God and a widespread conversion of hearts can our planet be saved from destruction. Ezekiel offers us reasons to hope and pray.
Sometimes we seem to be only half alive, feeling as lame as the man in John’s gospel, waiting for the movement of the water. To be spiritually alive each of us needs the grace of God to flow through our minds and hearts like a living stream, bringing fresh vigour to our attitudes, enlivening our hopes, sparking some spontaneity in our response to life. While Lent is traditionally includes the call to self-denial it also recalls the life-giving water of Baptism. It is when catechumens are preparing for their Baptism on Holy Saturday. Lent is meant to train us like athletes, to banish thoughts of pessimism and turn aside from false values, so that our best self may emerge. The waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy flow from the very centre of the Temple. This can happen in our parish churches where through prayer and liturgy we feel the touch of God’s transforming grace during Lent.
Finally, the lame man at the pool of Bethesda shows the value of waiting with patience. This most important virtue is inculcated by the prophets, especially where it says: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved. Your strength lies in quiet and in trust.” (Is 30:15). As we wait we come to know that it is Jesus who works the transforming changes we need. The lame man could have waited forever and remained lame, if he was not alert for the coming of Jesus.