Watered by the Healing Flow from the Sanctuary, 4th Tuesday of Lent, March 28, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
March 28, 2017
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: 

  • As I been mentioning for the last nine days, the second phase of Lent — from the third Sunday through the fifth Friday — is an intense preparation of the Elect for baptism and mystagogical course for the baptized to renew and live out better their baptismal promises and identity that are at the core of the Christian life. In today’s readings, we have a chance to ponder far more deeply what that baptismal journey is about, how we’re supposed to desire it, and how it is supposed to be life-long.
  • Let’s begin with the desire we are supposed to have for God’s mercy and its transformative power. Today in the Gospel Jesus says to the man crippled for 38 years, “Do you want to be well?”  At first glance, it’s a strange question. It’s like asking a starving man if he’d like a sandwich, a man in prison if he’d like a pardon, a post-partum woman if she’d like to hold her newborn. The answer is totally obvious: of course the man would want to be made well. He was, after all, at the Pool of Bethesda to participate in a superstitious race with the blind, lame, crippled to be the first one into the pool when the waters were stirred, believing that that was the path to be restored to wellness. But Jesus asked the question at a deeper level, trying to solicit the man’s deep desires, so that the man’s will would be involved in the cure. The man didn’t respond the way we would have thought he would, with an emphatic “Yes, I obviously would like to be made well!” Instead, he acknowledged that he needed help to be cured — he needed someone, he thought, to place him into the pool when the water became “alive.” Jesus had come to help and cure him with another type of living water, the living water enlivened by the Holy Spirit he had announced to the Samaritan woman in the encounter immediately preceding the scene in the Gospel. Jesus, in curing him and us, always wants to engage our will and our freedom. That’s why he asks whether we want to be made well. The problem with this man was that he was embittered, complaining, defeated. His will had been crushed. In response to Jesus’ simple, straightforward question, he blurted out how crippled his spirit was. “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. This Lent, this Jubilee of Mercy, Jesus 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 doesn’t was to say, “No matter how often I try, I just can’t avoid falling into sin.” He wants us to respond, rather, with hunger, thirst, enthusiasm, “Yes, Jesus! I do want to be totally spiritually healed! Please help me!” He wants us to say, “Yes, Jesus, I trust in you!”
  • Jesus’ words to this man are almost identical to what he said to the paralytic he healed in Capernaum, “Rise, take up your mat and walk,” because there is a great similarity between the miracles. In Capernaum, Jesus first forgave the paralyzed man’s sins. In Jerusalem, Jesus told the man, “Lord, you are well. Do not sin any more.” In each miracle, Jesus did not cure merely a physical paralysis but a spiritual one due to sin, and he does it in such a way that he wants us, in faith, to trust in his healing power and cooperate, however little, in the miracle. He wants us to participate in our own healing and set out more fully on the adventure of the Christian life and the journey of faith.
  • This is pointed to by the very powerful imagery of the first reading. Ezekiel sees 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 so that we can kneel in adoration. At the age of Confirmation, it should be up to our waist so that we, by the help of the Holy Spirit, can live by the Spirit and not by the concupiscence of the flesh. 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. God wants to say of us, “They shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary,” the sanctuary of who Jesus is and the water flowing from his side. 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!
  • The Lenten season is meant to be a pilgrimage, cubit by cubit, more and more deeply into Christ the living water. We begin on Ash Wednesday and seek to unite ourselves to Christ in his prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We advance to listening to him and seeing his glory at the Transfiguration. We ask him to give us this living water always, like the Samaritan Woman. We follow him progressively on the path to illumination, as we see with the man born blind. We could look at a thousand, possible Lenten angles, but the main point is what is our desire, do we hunger to be healed, are we translating that hunger into a journey with Christ the living water into the desert, cubit by cubit, so that he can give us life?
  • Today the same Jesus who spoke to the crippled and to St. John of God says to us,  “Do you want to be made well?,” awaiting our response. He wants to help us to respond with enthusiasm, “Yes, I do!,” and open ourselves up to the way by which he wants to raise from the dead whatever in us is lifeless, and guide us to grow in our receptivity to his mercy and our passing it on. Today we ask him for the grace today to advance 1000 cubits in faith in his mercy and allow him who is the Living Water to pour out from this altar a great river flowing into Manhattan leading us in the current to where he wants us to bring life and resurrection.

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.

Gospel
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.