1st April. Tuesday in Week 4 of Lent
First Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
(Life-giving water flows out from the Temple of God)
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
(Jesus cures the paralysed man near the pool of Bethzatha, on the sabbath)
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 paralysed. 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 the Living Waters
We live in an age of ecological crisis, where in places our air and our water are becoming so contaminated as to be at a critical point for human health. So the fresh-water image in the Ezekiel prophecy has all the more relevance as a symbol of hope and a call to renewal of attitude and some changes of lifestyle both at individual and societal level. We need a moral miracle, it seems, to motivate us to deal responsibly with the looming global threat to the atmosphere and climate change. Only by the grace of God can mankind’s indifference to the destruction of our planet by over-reliance on mineral-based energy be reversed. Ezekiel also inspires us to pray and work for another kind of purification, that of our inner selves. Each of us needs the living impulse of the Spirit, like a stream of fresh water flowing through us, to wash and invigorate us in mind and heart, to help reshape our ingrained attitudes, to enliven our hope and bring a new spontaneity to our planning. Sometimes it seems as if we are only half alive to the realities around us, or lamed, like the man in John’s gospel, waiting for the movement of the water.
While Lent suggests some commitment to penance and self-denial, it also recalls the life-giving waters of our Baptism. We are a people blessed by the grace of God. Right now, catechumens are being prepared for Baptism on Holy Saturday. Lent can train us like athletes, to throw off the sluggish drag of gloom and pessimism. It helps us set aside false values, so that our best self emerges fully alive. In Ezekiel’s prophecy the waters flow from the Holy of Holies at the heart of the Temple. We are summoned to meet more frequently in a community setting during Lent. Through some extra prayer and liturgy we too can feel the touch of these transforming waters, so that like Ezekiel we can nituce signs of new life about us, where previously we saw only desert.
Finally, the lame man at the pool of Bethesda reminds us that while patience is needed, we must be on the lookout for opportunity. These are both inculcated by Isaiah who said: “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies” (Is 30:15). Waiting for Jesus can work the transforming, at times miraculous change we need. The lame man could have waited forever and remained lame unless he responded to the coming of Jesus.