Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 21, 2023

“Water flows from the Temple and turns the land into a fertile paradise, bringing health and life,” says Ezekiel. “But this living Temple is Christ,” says John. Encountering him means forgiveness, health, and life. These readings on the symbolism of life-giving water and on Christ have been chosen in view of baptism, the Lenten-Easter sacrament: in its waters, we encounter Christ.

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God,
you have quenched our thirst for life
with the water of baptism.
Keep turning the desert of our arid lives
into a paradise of joy and peace,
that we may bear fruits
of holiness, justice and love.
Lord, hear our prayer
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!

1 Reading: EZEKIEL 47:1-9, 12
The angel brought me, Ezekiel, back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the façade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the right side. 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. 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. 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. 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. Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides. 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. 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. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Responsorial PSALM 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
R. (8) The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea. R.

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn. R.

The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things he has wrought on earth. R.

Verse Before the Gospel: PSALM 51:12a, 14a
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!
A clean heart create for me, O God;
give me back the joy of your salvation.
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!

Gospel: JOHN 5:1-16
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 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. 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.” 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 this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, 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.

I want to be healed, but…
The Gospel today speaks about the miracle of Jesus at the pool of Bethzatha on a Sabbath Day. Some Bible scholars think this passage is an allegory. Today’s liturgy makes us reflect on water as a sign of salvation.
The sick man stands for the people of Israel. The five porches represent the five books of the law. In those porches, the people lay ill. The law could show the people their sins but could never redeem them, it could uncover people’s weaknesses but never cure them. The law, like the porches, sheltered the sick souls but could never bring healing. The 38 years could be explained as the 38 centuries of people waiting for the Messiah. The stirring of the waters stands for baptism. In early Christian art, baptism was presented with a man depicted as rising from the baptismal waters, carrying a bed upon his back.
The initiative for healing in today’s Gospel comes from Jesus, and he asks: “Do you want to be healed?” And the answer is interesting: he doesn’t say yes, but he complains about having no one to help him! “I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed. While I’m about to go there – I’m about to decide – another gets there before me.” He was asked if he wanted to be healed. The answer should have been, “Yes, I want to be healed!” But his response to Jesus’ offer to heal is a complaint against others. And so, 38 years complaining about others and doing nothing to get better.
Jesus healed him, although he did not really ask for it. But his indecisiveness would continue. The author of the Gospel does not say whether he was happy or sad about his healing. Unlike other healing stories, he does not show any signs of happiness here. Instead, he continues to complain. “The one who healed me said to me. Take up your mat and walk.” And later, he would go and tell the Jews that it was Jesus who healed him.
This happens in our lives too. People perceive only what they want to perceive. We are sometimes too preoccupied with our prejudices and convictions and refuse to appreciate the goodness and beauty in the people around us. Are we too critical of those who are more popular and successful than us and find faults with the situations and circumstances around us? It is time for us to appreciate a colleague for a good job done, instead of criticising them for being late in completing the assignment.

– For people who are blind to the defects of their hearts and to the needs of their neighbor, we pray:
– For people who are paralyzed by their fears and their lack of courage, we pray:
– For the physically handicapped, those who are blind, lame and paralyzed, that they may move the hearts of people and keep up their trust in God, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God,
your Son, Jesus, comes among us
in these signs of bread and wine.
May he be for us
the source of living water
from which we can drink
until we are satisfied,
that we may turn this earth
into a hospitable place,
which gives us a foretaste
of your eternal paradise.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!

Prayer after Communion
Lord, our God,
we have encountered your Son
in this Eucharistic celebration.
May he say to us, too:
“Pick up your sleeping mat and walk,”
and may we indeed, walk
at the Word of your Son
and go to you in his way
of goodness, justice and peace.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!

“Do you want to be made well?” Jesus asks the paralyzed man and us. Of course, we say yes. And like the paralyzed person, say yes, may we find people to help us trust in God and to let him make us better people and better Christians. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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