Homily for April 5, Tuesday of the IV week of Lent
Water is a symbol of both life and death in the Bible. The two meanings are often joined when water plays the part of an instrument of renewal, where there is a definitive break with a past of sin and death and an entrance into a new reality of life and promise. Just think of Noah’s Ark and the great flood, or the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea on the way from Egypt to the Promised Land. The same is true of the sacrament of Baptism; water is poured on us, and we die to sin, receiving the new life of God in our souls. We are reborn of water and the spirit.
Because of the close link between Lent and renewal in general – and Baptism more specifically – the theme of water as a source of new life is common in the readings. For instance, two Sundays ago, we heard the reading of the Samaritan woman at the well, to whom Christ promises a spring of living water welling up to eternal life within her. Last Sunday, we had the miracle of the man born blind to whom Christ gave physical and spiritual sight through anointing his eyes with wet clay and washing them with water.
Today, this theme returns. It is echoed in the Psalm that speaks of a stream that gladdens the city of God. In the reading from the Old Testament, Ezekiel has a vision of a stream springing up from under the Temple and turning mysteriously into a deep river of life-giving water. It makes the desert fertile, and changes the salt water of the Dead Sea into fresh water, teeming with life and nourishing medicinal and fruit-bearing trees along its banks. However, Ezekiel is not told when or how this symbolic healing water will come.
The Gospel reading helps us to understand that Christ, who referred to His own body as a Temple, is the source of healing, life-giving water of the Spirit. There is a crippled man lying by a pool of water which is thought to have, on occasion, the power to heal, but he is unable to reach the water and remains ill. The Lord comes to him instead and heals him. Christ’s words to the man reveal that the healing was both physical and spiritual; Jesus tells him to “sin no more” – implying that his sins were forgiven – lest anything worse happen to him. Sin can indeed cause something worse than physical ailment, because it can lead to our eternal damnation.
Through the waters of Baptism, Jesus has healed our souls of sin and transformed death into a passage to heaven for those who remain united to Him. We all know what we need to do this Lent to strengthen that union: prayer – especially the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist; fasting from those things that lead us to self-indulgence; and dedicating more of our time and resources to helping those in need. May God help us all this Lent to purify our souls once again with the nourishing water of His grace.