March 20, 2012

HOMILY for Tue in Week 4 of Lent

Ezekiel 47:1-9,12; Ps 45; Jn 5:1-3,5-16

Ezekiel’s vision of a restored Temple is a promise that God will restore the fortunes of Israel, that God will be with his people. And God has fulfilled his promise in Christ. Because Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us, and as we hear in the Gospels, Jesus is the Temple because it is through him that God encounters his people, and God dwells in him. Indeed, he is God in the flesh. So, all that the Temple stands for finds its perfection in Christ.

When Christ hanging on the Cross was pierced with a lance, blood and water flowed from his side (cf John 19:34), and these are taken to be symbols of baptism and the Eucharist. The waters that flow from the right side of the Temple in Ezekiel thus stand for the waters of baptism into which we Christians are immersed. The river teems with life, and brings life for “everything will live where the river goes”. This is a beautiful image of baptism because it is through the waters of baptism that we receive the grace that leads to eternal life. Ezekiel’s river is full of fish of “very many kinds”, just as people from all over the world are preparing now to be baptized at Easter, and receive life from the Church’s font. So, it is the baptized, us, who are like the fish swimming in this river of life. For this reason, the early Church referred to the baptismal font as the piscina, the fish pond. The river brings life so that all kinds of fertile trees will grow. This is an evocation of Eden, and likewise, baptism restores humanity to Paradise, to the innocence of Eden when humanity was in friendship with God.

But the trees growing by the river also stand for us Christians. As psalm 1:4 says, the person blessed by God is “like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade”. We who are blessed in baptism are called to draw grace from the waters of our baptism, to live in God’s Holy Spirit, who is also symbolized by “living water” in the Scriptures. So, planted in Christ beside the flowing waters of the Spirit, we will be fruitful. And we bear fruit and leaves, not for ourselves, but so that others may have life and healing. As Christians filled with the Spirit of God, we are called to love others, and so give of ourselves, like Ezekiel’s fruit trees with medicinal leaves, so that others may be healed, nourished, sheltered, strengthened, and find joy. 

And when we do this, when we are so filled with the Holy Spirit so that others will draw life from our presence, then we too become Temples; then, Ezekiel’s vision will be fulfilled in us. For we, who are baptized into Christ, have become temples of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in us through grace so that he is present to the world through every Christian, and other people will encounter God in the flesh through the love we have for them.

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