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Tuesday – Fourth Week – Lent
Readings: Eze 47:1-9; Jn 5:1-3a, 5-16.
1/ First Reading: NAB Ezekiel 47:1 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the facade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the southern side. 3 Then when he had walked off to the east with a measuring cord in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade through the water, which was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand and once more had me wade through the water, which was now knee-deep. Again, he measured off a thousand and had me wade; the water was up to my waist. 5 Once more he measured off a thousand, but there was now a river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming. 6 He asked me, “Have you seen this, son of man?” Then he brought me to the bank of the river, where he had me sit. 7 Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides. 8 He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. 9 Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
2/ Gospel: NAB John 5:1 After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep (Gate) a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. 3 In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. 14 After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. 16 Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God’s presence brings life for human beings.
Water can’t be lacking in human life. At Jerusalem and the southern regions of Israel, water is very important because they are either locating on mountain or desert. If there is no water, it shall be no life. Water can also be used to clean all dirtiness. The water flowing from the temple is the image of the baptismal water in the night of Easter Vigil; it can clean all impurities in human hearts.
Today reading center around the necessary of water in life. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel, though lived on the exile, had a vision of water flowing from the right of the Jerusalem temple. There was so much water that it formed a great river that flowed toward the Death Sea and the Arabah desert. Wherever water flowed to, it brought life to all creatures; this water could also heal all human diseases. In the Gospel, there was a paralytic for 38 years who lied on the side of the Bethesda pool to wait for the water to be stirred. Local people believed that the first one who jumps to the pool right after the water is stirred, shall be healed from his sickness. When Jesus walked by him and knew he wanted to be healed, he healed him and commanded him to carry his mat and to go home.
1/ Reading I: Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live.
1.1/ Ezekiel’s vision: Many authors of the Scripture had the vision of “the water flowing from the temple” (cf. Joel 3:18, Zech 14:8, Psa 36:8-9, Rev 22:1). Some consider this vision might imply the water that flowed from the paradise (Gen 2:10-14), ceased to flow due to Adam’s sin; re-appeared in the Exodus through the miraculous event of the water that flowed from the rock at Massah and Meribah (Exo 17:1-7); and lastly, shall appear again at Jerusalem at the end time.
The eastside of the temple is the Kedron valley, used to be dried, and people can go across from Jerusalem to Mount Olive as Jesus and his disciples used to do. Ezekiel’s vision implied God’s interference in human life. He can fill the Kedron valley with water and form it as a great river as Jordan to flow to the Dead Sea.
1.2/ The water that came from the temple brings life to all creatures: Where the water is, there is life. The tree that is planted near water shall always be green and yielded plenty of fruits. The Dead Sea, where the water of Jordan river flows in, is very salty because there is no exit; none of living creature can live there. Ezekiel’s vision probably implied God’s interference in the future. He shall let water flow from the temple so abundantly to the point it can form a river, fills the Kedron valley, flows to the Death Sea as Jordan river, and continues to the Arabah desert. When the Dead Sea is opened at the other end, its water shall be clean and healthy, as Ezekiel described: “Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.”
The spiritual sense of this vision may imply the baptismal water in the Easter Vigil, when the faithful sing this verse while the priest sprinkle water on them: “I saw the water that flowed from the temple; and whoever that water flows to, shall receive salvation and cry out with joy ‘Alleluia! Alleluia!’”
2/ Gospel: Jesus healed the paralytic for 38 years at Bethesda pool.
2.1/ History of the Bethesda pool: Before the 20th century, the scholars of Johannine Gospel thought this Bethesda pool is only symbolic, not a real pool in Jerusalem. Some even tried to explain its symbolic meanings, such as: five porticoes represent the five books of the Pentateuch; thirty-eight years represent thirty-eight years of the Israelites wandered in the desert. The École Biblique of the Dominican Order discovered this historical pool together with all of its historical information. It located on the westside of the temple, near to St. Ann Church today. Actually, they found out two pools, near to each other. The following information was found on the guidance brochure of the White Friars.
In the ancient day, many pools were dug in this area to reserve water (Jerusalem was built on the top of Sion Mountain). At the beginning, a simple pool was dug to contain water that flowed through this valley as a natural pool. Later, this pool was built and conversed to an artificial pool with the size of 40×50 m by using a pipe with a diameter of 6 m. The water of the pool was made flowing into the temple by a small conduit. Isaiah 7:3 and 2 Kgs 18:17 mentioned this small conduit.
At the end of 3rd BC, a second pool was established, probably at the time of Simon, the High Priest (cf. Sir 50:3). It was built to the south of the pipe; and the small conduit was covered to become a pipe to the temple.
Between 150 BC and 70 A.D, a famous center of healing was developed to the eastside of these two pools. A well, bathing places, and altars were established for religion and healing purposes. This place became the meeting place for people who were prohibited to enter the temple due to their sickness. According to the tradition, they waited for the water to be stirred by an angel; whoever is the first one to enter the pool shall be healed. It was at this place that Jesus healed the paralytic.
In the 1st AD, a bigger pool was built, BIRKET ISRAEL. This pool made other pools at Bethesda less importance. A new wall was built in the northside by Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D to prevent water to flow into the temple.
2.2/ Jesus’ healing of the paralytic for thirty-eight years: John briefly reported the dialogue between Jesus and the paralytic: “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately, the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath.”
2.3/ The argument about the Sabbath: To carry one’s mat on the Sabbath is to violate the law and the one who carries it can be stoned to death. When the Jews saw the paralytic, “they said to the man: “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.”
After that, “Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.” We can see the reason why Jesus warned the man is that if he keeps on sinning by disobeying God’s command, he must get the results of his sins and they can be graver than his past sins. Ignoring of Jesus’ warning, he went out and continued sinning!
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– As water is necessary for the body, the water which flows from the temple is also necessary for our soul. The baptismal water has power to clean all sins and to bestow on people many of God’s grace and blessing.
– Without God’s presence in life, we shall be dried for a long time as the paralytic. With God’s presence in our life, we shall be healed from all sins and bear many good fruits.