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 water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."
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./)
There is a stream whose waters 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.
Come! behold the deeds of the Lord,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth. (R./)
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 paralyzed. 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.
We live in an age of pollution and looming environmental crisis, aware that global warming threatens the very future of life on earth. As Pope Francis has wisely reminds us in his encyclical "Laudato Si," this world is our shared home; but by contaminating the earth’s air and water, we are putting in peril the conditions for life of future generations. The pope has called us to practice inter-generational justice, and actively protect our environment and leave the earth unharmed for those who will follow us. Therefore the fresh-water image in Ezekiel’s prophecy is very relevant for today and we ask God to help us protect this lovely planet. Only by the mercy of God, it seems, can the process of destruction be reversed. Only God can convert human hearts to responsible stewardship of the earth.
Ezekiel offers us reasons to hope and pray. He inspires us also to seek another kind of purification, of our inner selves. We need a stream of grace to flow through us, to cleanse our hearts, brighten our hopes and infuse us with new life and vigour. Sometimes we seem only half alive; we are as lame as the man in John’s gospel, waiting for the movement of the water.
The healing miracle at the pool near the Sheep Gate can bring echoes of our Baptism. Lent is the time when catechumens are preparing for Baptism on Holy Saturday. It invites us to throw off anything that is unworthy in us and turn aside from sin so that our best self can prevail.
As the waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy flowed from the Holy of Holies in the temple, let’s see what we can do to revive the spirit in our local church, during Lent. Through prayer and liturgy we can feel the touch of God’s presence. Reflecting upon Ezekiel we seek our own source of life-giving water. Like him we will notice new signs of life about us where previously we saw only the dry desolation of the desert.
Finally, the lame man at the pool of Bethesda shows how worthwhile it is to wait with patience. This vital virtue is urged by the prophets, especially Isaiah who said: "By waiting and calm you shall be saved. Your strength resides in quiet and in trust." (Is 30:15). Like the lame man by the pool, we trust that Jesus offers the healing we need. He could have waited forever and remained lame, if he did not recognise the coming of the Lord.