The readings for today don’t seem to be in the same mode as those selected for earlier parts of Lent – the “repent, ye sinners, and be saved” admonitions of the prophets. True, Jesus heals the chronically ill man and admonishes him not to sin anymore. But Jesus didn’t link His cure to the man’s sinfulness, and neither Ezekiel nor the psalmist are calling for a change in our ways, a turning away from sinfulness and toward a more concrete relationship with God.
Ezekiel describes the wonderful flowing water that exits from the threshold of the temple and flows to the east. This water makes the sea fresh when the two meet, enabling fruit to grow and trees to prosper, nurturing all forms of life. This refreshing water comes from the temple of the Lord. It grows as it flows from a shallow rivulet to a mighty river.
The psalmist reminds us that God is our refuge and our strength. In bad times we should not fear, because God is our stronghold. The deeds of God on earth are truly astounding.
On a feast day, a sabbath day, Jesus cures a man who had been ill for much of his life. The man believed that immersion in the pool of Bethesda might cure him, but he was unable to engage anyone to help him get in the pool. Jesus bypasses the pool and cures him directly. It is interesting that, unlike some other cures, Jesus doesn’t link the cured person with his or her faith; Jesus just cures him because he needs curing.
For me these are positive messages, a nice change from the repent messages, an encouragement during a Lent of sacrifices and disrupting changes in patterns of life. The water is God’s care for us, God’s love and grace, which causes all it touches to flourish. It makes the salty sea fresh, thus purifying the water and enabling it to sustain bountiful life. It grows in power and influence as it spreads throughout the world and interacts with the earth and all that is upon it.
The psalmist’s message is one of calm reassurance – all will be safe, all will be well, because the Lord is with us. And Jesus’ cure is also reassuring – the man is cured (saved) because he merely wanted to be well.
The astounding things that God has wrought on earth – the beauty, the natural resources, the diversity of life, the abilities of humans to discover and think and act and partner with God in creating prosperity – can be overlooked in this current time of challenge (both the Lenten journey and our everyday economic, environmental and moral crises). But God is our refuge – God is with us, an ever-present help in our current spiritual and physical distress. And we know we will commemorate, in a few short weeks, that Jesus, by His death and resurrection, is our eternal salvation.
And so my prayer today is one of gratitude – for receiving the grace to make this Lenten journey, for living in this time in the history of this world of astounding things, for experiencing (like the man at the pool, with no merit on my part) the healing, nurturing, curing power of God’s love.
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