Both readings today deal with water. Ezekiel (47:1-9, 12) speaks of a trickle of water from the east side of the Temple that becomes a mighty river thousands of cubits downstream.
Water is THE sign of life. Water is essential for life. Our space probe is looking for water on distant planets because the presence of water may indicate some form of life. The waters of Baptism bring new life just as the waters coming from Ezekiel’s Temple nurture creatures and fish and vegetation.
The tress will provide food and medicine. Much of our medicine comes from plants in rain forests which we are destroying to make way for cattle farming and mining operations.
God in his bounty is watering the earth. Life springs forth. Having lived through severe drought conditions in the North Georgia Mountains and Western North Carolina in recent years should give us added appreciation for the gift of water.
These waters also remind us of the waters of justice which roll down like this mighty stream. Justice renews the face of the earth. Justice restores right relationships between people and God and between people. The Office of Readings today from Leviticus 13 speaks of justice. “Don’t pick all the grain or grapes. Leave some for the poor and the aliens among you. Treat your alien neighbor just like the natives in the land.” Leviticus had justice and immigration figured out. Why do we omit this teaching from our version of the Judeo-Christian code?
John (5:1-16) speaks of the waters in the pool at Bethesda. When the waters are stirred up, they bring healing.
Notice Jesus’ compassion. He approaches the man who has been crippled for 38 years. He takes the initiative. He does not wait for the man to ask him for healing. Jesus spoke the word and the man arose and walked away. This violation of the debt code (being crippled was a result of sin) infuriated the “Jews.”
Parenthetically, John, the latest Gospel, uses the term “Jews” to refer to the Pharisees and Scribes who opposed Jesus. We must remember that initially members of the Jesus movement were members of the synagogue. The Jesus movement and the Pharisees were the two major sects in first century Judaism. It was only later, when the Christians split from Judaism that the leaders were portrayed in a more antagonistic role toward Jesus. This culminates in the use of the term “Jews” in John and this soon became the basis for much anti-Semitism as all Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus. It was the Roman occupiers who executed this rebel from Galilee.
This should be a caution to us. We should not let our justified anger over the Israelis’ treatment of the Palestinians to turn into anti-Semitism. Again, as in Jesus’ day, all Jews are not oppressing the Palestinians. Some Islamic leaders are also in the wrong in calling for jihad against Israel. Some of the Israeli leaders, including rabbis, have called for Holy War against the Palestinians. This is wrong and needs to be opposed. But we should not blame a whole people for what is going on. Many Israelis want Israel to honor UN Resolutions and withdraw from the occupied territories. Some Islamic leaders are calling for peace. Holy wars are the bloodiest of wars. Both sides wrongly think their tribal god is on their side. Let’s pray that they can come to the table and put a halt to the needless bloodshed.