16 March 2010 Tuesday of the 4th Week of Lent
Ezekiel 47, 1-12; Psalm 46; John 5, 1-16
Why do we regularly come to church every Sunday? Why should we attend mass when we know that we will eventually fall again, only to return the next Sunday? Is this a futile routine that pious people do? Let me tell you the story of behind the first reading.
The prophet Ezekiel experienced the Fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and the Babylonian exile. He described the exile as an occasion that demanded the conversion of a sinful, rebellious people and their acquiring of a new heart (Ez 36, 26). But in the midst of these traumatic events, Ezekiel was a compassionate prophet who encouraged his particular community by giving them a vision of restoration, where the Temple that was destroyed would be rebuilt again in the distant future. Consequently, if the people accepted their responsibility for the events that happened, then repented and submitted themselves once again to Yahweh, the renewal would create a new community and a new nation under the auspices of the Lord.
How would this renewal come about? We could imagine Ezekiel telling the story to his people in Babylon on April 28, 573 BC (Ezekiel 40,1), the only date that appears in chapter 40-48. On this day, he had a vision. He was on a high mountain in the land of Israel where he saw a city being built. A divine man was on the gate of the city with measuring tools. He explained to Ezekiel that he was his guide and he would show him around. To cut the story short, Ezekiel was brought to the Temple. He went into the outer courts, and entered the inner court where the sanctuary was.
When Ezekiel and his guide returned to the front of the temple where they noticed waters flowing from the south, north, east and west of the temple walls. Every time the guide measured the water, its depths increased until it became a torrent (v. 3-5). The guide explained that the source of this water springs from the throne of God and it will restore the Dead Sea into life, and wherever the waters flow, barren places will become fertile again.
The restoration of a nation revolves around a renewed worship. Those who come to worship at the Temple would eventually bring as much life to others, as the waters breathed new life to barren places. The trees and plants in Ezekiel’s vision are sources of medicine that heals. That is why, the lame man in the Gospel was waiting for the waters of Bethesda to be stirred. They believed that the sick who gets into the water will be able to restored to new life.
The Temple of Jerusalem was the center of life for the Israelites. Likewise, worshipping the Lord today should be the center of our lives. We believe that through the liturgy, the Father fills us with his blessings in the Word made flesh who died and rose for us and pours into our hearts the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the Church blesses the Father by her worship, praise, and thanksgiving and begs Him for the gift of His Son and the Holy Spirit.
It is in our worship that we encounter the Lord. It is in the sacraments that the Lord confers sacramental grace which helps us in our journey towards holiness and so assists the Church as well to grow in charity and in her witness to the world. In other words, we are refreshed and renewed every time we come to receive the sacraments especially the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we have all it takes to be brought back to life. When we sin or fail, we are forgiven in the Penitential Rite. When we find ourselves alienated from the Lord, we are confirmed again as children of God especially when we pray the Our Father. When we find our lives far from being like Christ, we are conformed again to Christ the Lord. When feel that we are lost and abandoned, we are reminded that we belong to a community, that we are members of the Church. Thus, when we find ourselves like the Israelites who lost everything in the Fall of Jerusalem and had become exiles, the Holy Spirit heals and transforms us, the way He rebuilt the Temple again.
For many of us, all of the above is laid simply in an experience. When we are down, we run to the Lord and pray. There in church, in the quiet of our hearts, we simply sit there, cry our heart out, and talk to the Lord. And when we’re done, we leave the church quite fine, ready to take any hurdle that comes our way. And then, we return again. We go full circle.
The Season of Lent is a time to rise from our numerous falls, pick up the pieces once again, and begin a new life.