Growing in Baptismal Faith and Grace Along with St. Patrick, Fourth Tuesday of Lent, Feast of St. Patrick, March 17, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, New York, NY
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Feast of St. Patrick, Patron of the Archdiocese of New York
March 17, 2015
Ezek 47:1-9.12, Ps 46, Jn 5:1-16


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click  below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Lent is an annual catechumenate, preparing the elect for baptism and those who have already been baptized for the renewal of their baptismal promises and identity that are at the core of the Christian life. The readings for the third through fifth weeks of Lent are heavily concentrated on baptismal imagery. In today’s readings, we have a chance to ponder far more deeply what the journey in faith that begins in baptism is all about, how we’re supposed to desire it, and how it is supposed to be life-long.
  • We see the journey that’s supposed to happen in faith flowing from baptism in today’s first reading.  Ezekiel beholds a vision of water trickling from the eastern side of the Temple down toward the Arabah, the sandy 20 mile desert that separates Jerusalem from the Dead Sea. The Angel takes Ezekiel another 1000 cubits (about 500 yards since a cubit is the distance between the elbow and the top of the middle finger, about 18 inches for those of us who aren’t in the NBA) and the water is now ankle deep; another 500 yards and it’s knee deep; yet another 500 and it’s up to his waist; a final 500 and it had become a river over his head so that he could only swim across it. And along it’s path, it brought all types of life to the desert as it flowed into the Dead Sea — where no marine life can survive because it’s 20 times the salinity of the ocean — and raised it literally from the Dead, making it fresh and allowing all types of fish to live in it again. This is an image of the Christian life of the baptized. On the day of our baptism we receive a trickle of the Living Water flowing from the true Temple’s — Jesus’ — pierced Eastern side, the font of sacramental life for the Church. But we’re to journey more deeply with that living water. By the time we’re able to communicate with others and with God and pray, this living water should be up to our ankles. By the time of we’re ready to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, it should be up to our knees. At the age of Confirmation, it should be up to our waist. By the time we’re adults, we should be submerging ourselves in it and allowing that river of Living Water to direct us to wherever he wants us to bring vitality even in the midst of the deserts of life. The Living Water who is Jesus wants to raise from the dead whatever Dead Seas we bear inside, converting what is salty and bitter into something fresh and alive. It behooves us, therefore, this Lent and every Lent to ask ourselves whether we are advancing in this Living Water, whether we’re allowing Jesus to raise within us whatever is dead. Jesus wants to cure us of our spiritual stagnation! But he wants us to want to be cured!
  • We get to that desire to be cured in today’s Gospel. Jesus says to a man crippled for 38 years, “Do you want to be well?”  Jesus always wants to engage our will and our freedom. The problem with this man was that he was crippled in spirit and not just in body. His will had been crushed. In response to Jesus’ simple, straightforward question, he blurted out how lame he was interiorly. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” What should have been an immediate response, “Of course I want to be made well!” had morphed into a “Woe am I” self-pitying violin solo. It was transformed into the sickness of spiritual acedia, an anesthesia of the soul. This Lent Jesus likewise asks us, “Do you want to be well?” He doesn’t want us to reply with apathy, with a broken down, “I’ve tried to live a great Lent before with prayer, fasting and almsgiving, but I’m never able to keep my resolutions to unite myself to you in your prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And so while of course I want to be made fully well and holy, I really have lowered my expectations because I just don’t want to disappoint myself, you or others.” He wants us to respond, rather, with hunger, thirst, enthusiasm, “Yes, Jesus! I do want to be totally spiritually healed! Please help me!”
  • Someone who ought to inspire us to this type of holy Lenten desire and healing is the saint we celebrate today, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick. Even though St. Patrick’s father was a deacon and his grandfather a married priest, St. Patrick wrote in his Confession that at the age of 16 he really didn’t know God. But he was kidnapped from his native Scotland and brought into slavery for six years in Ireland and that’s where he, while enslaved on the outside, he grew free on the inside. It’s there that he learned to turn to God and how God was present. He said he would begin to pray while shepherding his master’s flocks. He would pray at night. He would pray in the cold and in the snow, in the rain and in the sunshine. It was only then that he began to grow in the living water that he had received in baptism. At the age of 22, because of what God had revealed to him in a dream, he escaped, ran 200 miles to a ship that God had shown him, after returned home there, to the joy of his parents. But while there, God moved him by another dream to see how the Irish were languishing without that living water, without the faith. He had learned their language in his six years in captivity. And so, following the Lord, he made plans to return to them to preach the faith. He was trained for the priesthood in France and ordained and then returned. And it’s there that he labored until the end of his life bringing people to baptism — he wrote in his Confession that he baptized “so many thousands of people” — and to the spiritual growth that is meant to flow from baptism. He was able to do this because he never stopped wading into the deeper water flowing from the Christ’s pierced heart. St. Patrick’s most famous prayer is his “breastplate” or “lorica,” words he wrote on a piece of clothing and wore under his clothes above his heart. It was what he used to pray every morning as his morning offering, consecrating the day to God, which is a prayer I’d encourage everyone to learn and to pray each day. The most famous line of that lorica is his prayer, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.” That’s a prayer describing how he was surrounded by Christ, the living water, on the outside and the inside. He wasn’t just dipping his toe into Christ but inundating himself with his grace. That’s a description of what the fully Christian life is meant to be.
  • As we come forward today to receive Him from whose open side as he gave us his body and blood on the Cross flowed the Living Water that is the source of baptism and all the Sacraments of the Church, to meet him who asks us “Do you want to be made well?,” we ask through St. Patrick’s intercession that we may respond with enthusiasm, “Yes, we do!,” and open ourselves up to the way by which he wants to raise from the dead whatever in us is stagnant. We ask through St. Patrick’s prayers for the grace today to advance 1000 cubits in faith and allow him who is the Living Water to pour out from this altar a great river flowing into New York leading us in the current to where Jesus wants us to bring life and resurrection. And we ask through St. Patrick’s prayers that as we prepare to receive Christ in Holy Communion he might be with us, within us, behind us, before us, beside us, beneath us and above us, that he might win, comfort and restore us, and that we might recognize and rejoice in his presence in quiet and in danger, in the hearts of all those who love and oppose us, and in the disguise of the all those we meet today. St. Patrick, patron of the Archdiocese of New York, pray for us all!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
EZ 47:1-9, 12

The angel brought me, Ezekiel,
back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the right side of the temple,
south of the altar.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the right side.
Then when he had walked off to the east
with a measuring cord in his hand,
he measured off a thousand cubits
and had me wade through the water,
which was ankle-deep.
He measured off another thousand
and once more had me wade through the water,
which was now knee-deep.
Again he measured off a thousand and had me wade;
the water was up to my waist.
Once more he measured off a thousand,
but there was now a river through which I could not wade;
for the water had risen so high it had become a river
that could not be crossed except by swimming.
He asked me, “Have you seen this, son of man?”
Then he brought me to the bank of the river, where he had me sit.
Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides.
He said to me,
“This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.
Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9

R. (8) The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.
R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth.
R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

JN 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’“
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.