Daily Homily: The Third Sign

Fourth Week of Lent, Tuesday

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Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
Psalm 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
John 5:1-16

Today the Gospel of John narrates the third sign, the healing of the paralytic, so that we may believe in Jesus Christ and in believing have eternal life. The miraculous healing is accompanied by references to water and the forgiveness of sins.

In the first reading, Ezekiel envisions water flowing from the temple of God. This recalls the river that flowed out of the first temple, the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10), and looks forward to the New Jerusalem and its “river of the water of life” (Revelation 22:1). The river in Ezekiel flows from the altar of God; the river in Revelation flows from the Throne of God and the Lamb. In Revelation, then, the distinction between the throne of God in the temple and the throne of God in heaven has been overcome. This is part of the reason why there is no need for a separate temple in the New Jerusalem (see R. Jenson, Ezekiel).

The river in Ezekiel flows into the Dead Sea: “the waters empty into the sea, the salt waters”. Genesis’ paradise is restored and outdone: along the stream’s banks flourish not one tree of life but whole groves of them. And when the stream enters the Dead Sea this is transformed into a sea that is full of life (see R. Jenson, Ezekiel).

Water is an important theme in John’s Gospel. Jesus tells Nicodemus that the condition for entering the Kingdom of God is being born again of water and the Spirit. Jesus then offers the gift of living water to the Samaritan woman. Whoever drinks this water will never be thirsty again. Today we read that Jesus accomplishes for the sick man what the man had hoped to receive from the healing water. Chapter Seven sees Jesus proclaim on the Feast of Tabernacles: “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-39). Chapter Nine tells us that Jesus commanded the man born blind to wash in the Pool of Siloam: “The whole chapter turns out to be an interpretation of Baptism, which enables us to see. Christ is the giver of light, and he opens our eyes through the mediation of the sacrament” (J. Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, 242). At the Last Supper, Jesus pours water into a bowl and washes the feet of the disciples. Finally, when Jesus’ side is pierced, there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). Jesus’ risen body, the New Temple, will become the source of living water and of eternal life for us.

Jesus is the new Moses who gives us bread from heaven and water from the rock. He is the true bread and the life-giving rock (1 Cor 10:3). Man thirsts for life and this is satisfied by God. “Faith in Jesus is the way we drink the living water, the way we drink life that is no longer threatened by death” (J. Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, 245).

Jesus heals the paralytic in his body, but also commands him to sin no more. Being paralyzed spiritually is worse than being paralyzed physically. We can look at our own lives today, see where we are paralyzed, and ask Jesus to heal us. This healing, after Baptism, takes place in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where, like the paralyzed man, we tell Jesus with simplicity and contrition what sins we have committed against God and against our brothers, what afflicts us and what keeps us from following him more closely. In this Sacrament, we will be told, like the paralyzed man: “Rise, take up your mat, and walk”.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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