Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday in the 4th Week of Lent
Making the Connection

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

We all know how much life depends upon meaning. However materially wealthy and physically healthy one is, life can still be torturous if one finds no meaning in what one does. We also know that meaning depends upon the ability to make connections. Why, for example, do many find the Mass boring if not because they fail to see any connection between the liturgy and their lives. Life depends upon meaning and meaning depends upon connections.

Our readings today help us to experience this truth. At first glance, there seems to be little in common between the two readings. Yet, it is when we discover the deep connection between them that we have access to their deeper meaning. As is often the case, imagery helps us.

The first reading tells of a deep river flowing into the Arabah. We know that the latter is desert country. And the sea spoken of here is none other than the Dead Sea. Nothing can grow in this dry and salt-saturated waste-land. There is only barrenness and death. But everything changes radically with the advent of the waters flowing from the Temple in Jerusalem. Life of great variety begins to flourish. The once dead sea teems with fish and evergreen trees thrive on the banks of the river, providing medicinal leaves and tasty fruit to all.

A parallel image is found in the gospel. In place of the Dead Sea of the Arabah, we find the Sheep Pool at Bethzatha. The environment looks just as bleak. Crowds of sick people gather here hoping for a cure but find none. Then Jesus comes. And things begin to change. Sickness gives way to health, immobility to vitality. Pick up your mat and walk.

There is one other important connection to notice: between the healing that Jesus brings and the persecution that he attracts. This is a reminder to us of the central mystery we celebrate: eternal life comes to us only in the face of death. This is the paschal mystery that we begged God for the grace to embrace in the opening prayer earlier. But the connection, the mystery, is not just to be found in the readings and in the liturgy. It is also to be found in our own lives.

This is the final connection that needs to be made. We need to see, in our own lives, the ways in which the living waters from the pierced side of Christ are inundating our pools of sickness and barrenness and death. We need somehow to appreciate and to embrace the ways in which Christ continues to call us to follow him on the way to Calvary and beyond, bringing us to wholeness and fertility and life. We need to realize the extent of our own spiritual paralysis – our inability to truly let God take first place in our lives – and to heed Christ’s call to get up pick up your mat and walk. This is the crucial connection that needs to be made if we are to embrace the profound mystery – the one true thing – that gives our lives ultimate meaning.

On what meaning does your life depend? What connections do you need to make today?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Fr Chris, for the edifying connection between the Scripture reading and Gospel passage. Indeed we need more teachers/pastors like you to help us "see" the connection (associativity) between what we believe and our life. The final connection, as you call it.

    One of the reasons why many students find it burdensome to master difficult subjects is because these topics are alien to them. The student enters the surrealistic world of organic chemistry, say, is bedazzled and befuddled by a language and environment completely alien to him/her. They do this for one hour a day and then re-enter the 'real world', much to their relief. They keep doing this week in week out, only to be more and more dis-enchanted and alienated as the weeks go by.

    Our faith life can be like that. The meagre one hour we 'dedicate' to worship once a week can be as unfulfilling as that one hour of class until we make real what we hear and worship on Sundays. It's the 'making real' that trips up many of us.

    We 'make real' what we believe in the ordinariness of our daily lives; the grind, the chores, the joys, the pain, the disappointments. We've heard often enough - "no resurrection without the cross", but does it register in our consciousness when faced with our own crosses, big or small?

    It is a Herculean task, one that humanly speaking is not possible without divine grace. But we are all infused with divine grace when we were baptized and when we receive the sacraments, so what remains, in my humble opinion, is a dogged determination to make real our faith life, often through the help of family and fellow believers.

    Lord Jesus, help us pick up our mat and walk resolutely with you this Lent.