Water is an interesting biblical symbol because, depending on one’s perspective, it can represent death and destruction; as when God cleansed the earth during the great flood (Genesis 6:5 – 10:32) or when he brought the towering walls of the Red Sea back upon the chariots and horses of the Egyptians. (Exodus 14:22-31)
It seems more often though that water is a powerful symbol of life such as when it brings sustenance and refreshment to the Israelites in the desert at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-12). The beautiful prayer of blessing over the water at infant baptisms recounts the many ways that God has used water to intervene on behalf of his people.
In the readings it is clear that the water described is meant to be life giving. The vision of Ezekiel describes a river that begins small but soon flows as a torrent out of the temple and into the valley. Everywhere the water goes new life begins to spring up. He sees that even where there was once stagnant water the new water turns the old fresh.
The Gospel also describes active water. It is a pool this time, rather then a river, but it has a bubbling effect which heals and cleanses those who enter into it. Beside this pool lies a man who has been ill for 38 years. Jesus queries why the water has had no effect on his illness in all that time and the man responds, “I have no one to put me into the pool”. All that healing water and the man cannot catch a break. It reminds me of a verse from the old poem, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“
Water, water, every where,And all the boards did shrink ; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.
As I think of that pool and the man sitting beside it unable to enter I think of the Church. The Church is beautiful, bubbling pool of healing water. But if one cannot enter the pool then what good does the healing water do?
Each time we enter the sanctuary of this place of worship and receive the sacraments we are cleansed to our core. We confess our sins, we receive the Eucharist and we emerge refreshed and renewed. Unfortunately there are many people who will never enter these doors. They lie on mats and wait for healing and no one ever comes.
As disciples we need to think seriously about Ezekiel’s vision. Besides being a beautiful soothing pool, the Church should also take on the image of the river that the prophet describes. The Church can become a river that flows out of these doors and into the streets of our city touching and bringing life to all who live here.
What can you do to open the floodgates?
Who in your life needs a helping hand to the healing pool?