Our liturgical readings for this week contain the ‘theme of life’. This is so because the Fourth Sunday of Lent is called the “Laetare Sunday” which calls us to “rejoice” because the Paschal Feast of the Lord/Easter is close at hand. We understand that at Easter, Christ rose from the dead, and by this, we are rest assured that he would give life to our mortal bodies at the last day. Thus, we understand his words better: “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). It is in this light that we read of the healing of the man born blind on Sunday – how Christ gave life to his eyes by taking him through the creation process, creating him anew through the application of a mixture of earth and his spittle. Yesterday, we read how he gave life to the son of the court official who was at the point of death. And in today’s Readings, we encounter our Lord who has come to give us life in a special way.
The First Reading (cf. Ezekiel 47:1-9,12) narrates the life-giving property of the water that flows eastward from the Temple. We are told that the water flowed to the Arabah and to the sea. The unnamed sea in question here is the Dead Sea in the Judean wilderness whose salt content is so great that nothing can survive in it. However, the water flowing eastward from the Temple flowed into the Dead Sea, making its waters wholesome. Ezekiel tells us that wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. It is important to understand that it was the presence of God in the Temple that enabled the water to give life to the Dead Sea and whatever that comes under its influence. Similarly, John’s Gospel portrays Jesus as the new Temple of God, where God is uniquely present in a life-giving way. Thus, in today’s Gospel (cf. John 5:1-3,5-16), Jesus (the new Temple) is seen giving life to a paralyzed man of thirty-eight years.
Dear friends in Christ, in order to benefit from the life-giving power of Christ through the Word and the Sacraments, we must intensify our faith and believe firmly in him; “whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). Throughout the pages of the gospel of St. John, believing in Jesus as the One sent by God is a prerequisite for salvation, since the verb “believe” is used 98 times as the condition for salvation. Therefore, my dear friends, in this critical moment when our world is faced with a life-threatening pandemic, of which many are already infected and a host of others are dead; as such, leading many people lose faith and trust in God because of his seeming silence, we are called once again to crystalize our faith and trust in our Lord Jesus, the life-giving Saviour, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), in order to benefit from the healing and life he would give to us. If the paralyzed man could be patient for thirty-eight years before experiencing the life-giving power of Christ, we also ought to be patient with firm faith in Christ, for he would restore life once again to our dying world faced with the calamity of COVID-19; just as the Psalmist [cf. Psalm 45(46):2-3,5-6,8-9ab] assures us: “God is for us a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand, in time of distress, so we shall not fear though the earth should rock, though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea. The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our stronghold.”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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