Ezekiel 47: 1-9, 12
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Psalm 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
John 5: 1-16
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
One does not need to look far these days to find feelings of fear and powerlessness. As the COVID-19 crisis rocks our country, we have found our lives disrupted, plans changed, and aspects of our future that we were counting on suddenly uncertain. Many are worried about the safety of at-risk loved ones, or about the economic repercussions of the mass quarantines. We are missing friends and family members as well as our old sense of “normal” and may be feeling at the mercy of the virus, or the government leaders who are making decisions that impact our lives so dramatically.
However, in the midst of the upset, our Scriptures today reassure us. The reading from Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord is the one who gives and sustains life. The Psalm tells us, “We will not fear, though the earth should change,” since “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” The world around us may have changed, but God is just as much with us as He has always been, and His will, as it has been from the beginning of time, is to heal, deliver, and draw souls to Himself. He has the power to save, to heal, and to protect, and He can turn a situation around as quickly as He did in the Gospel, when Jesus told the sick man to rise, take up his mat and walk. It did not matter that the man had been sick for so long, or had no one to bring him to the healing waters. In one instant the man went from a life of infirmity to health, simply because the Lord is good and chose to heal him.
Remind yourself of this truth when you are tempted to worry. Also remember that crises are opportunities to meet God. The man in the Gospel had suffered for 38 years, but would he have had the same encounter with Jesus otherwise? Some have compared this time of quarantine to a “time-out” where our lives slow down so that we can examine our priorities and find God in the quiet of our hearts and in our family lives. While we suffer the pain of distance from family and our faith community, from Mass and the Sacraments, let us fight the temptation to assume, as the Pharisees did, that the Lord can only work in certain ways. Rather, let us hold onto our belief that He wants to meet us in every moment of our lives and open our hearts to the ways that He may be calling us to a deeper trust and understanding of Him through this more challenging season.
May this historic Lent be a fruitful time of prayer, repentance, and growth in virtue. May we be reminded of the mercy that God has shown us throughout the ages, most notably on the Cross, and may we experience a greater gratitude for His provision and reliance on His power.