According to Jesus Christ, poring over the scripture is only justifiable if it leads someone to the source of life. This bible blog tries to do that, using the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church.
Reading 1, Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12
1 He brought me back to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream flowed eastwards from under the Temple threshold, for the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar.
2 He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side.
3 The man went off to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles.
4 He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my waist.
5 He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross.
6 He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He then took me and brought me back to the bank on the river.
7 Now, when I reached it, I saw an enormous number of trees on each bank of the river.
8 He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome.
9 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.
12 Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’
Gospel, John 5:1-16
1 After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem next to the Sheep Pool there is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five porticos;
3 and under these were crowds of sick people, blind, lame, paralysed.
5 One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years,
6 and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in that condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’
7 ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man, ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets down there before me.’
8 Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around.’
9 The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and started to walk around. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath,
10 so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the Sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’
11 He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around.” ‘
12 They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around”? ‘
13 The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared, as the place was crowded.
14 After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, do not sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’
15 The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him.
16 It was because he did things like this on the Sabbath that the Jews began to harass Jesus.
The vision of Ezekiel is a beautiful image of the goodness of God flowing from the Temple to nourish all living things. It is also a sharp reminder to his audience of the vocation of the temple to be the place, where, through holy worship, people are renewed, and transformed into a river of life for the world. Some of Ezekiel’s detail is subsequently used by the author of The Revelation for his picture of the holy city of God. (Revelation 22
If this is to be more than a pretty picture, however, we must ask if it could be a credible image of the Church. The long-concealed sexual abuse of children and young people by Catholic priests is more like a tide of evil than a river of goodness, but it is no excuse for other denominations to ignore their own abuses of power, and their own betrayals of the love of Christ. Especially we have to look at two issues:
1.The power of clergy. How is this to be minimized?
2. The preference for blind faith over reason. How is this to be rejected?
The church will be kept pure by a bold membership which has the confidence to use its brains.
The man at the pool of Siloam is in chains to a superstition: that the disturbed waters of the pool will cure him. His religion leaves him lying there, ignorant, unnourished and unhealed. Jesus asks him to use his brains, “Do you want to get well? (Or do you want to lie here as an object of pity?) In fact, he interrupts the man’s pathetic recital of his problems with the command to get moving. The man has to choose between the living water of Jesus and the dead water of the pool. He gets up, and becomes an active person. John suggests by his use of the imagery of the waters, by his linking of Jesus to the temple, and by his note that this event takes place on the Sabbath, that he is depicting Jesus as the true temple from which the healing waters flow, and as the new opportunity (day) to enjoy the goodness of God, for in direct contradiction of the doctrine of the Sabbath, Jesus states that neither he nor his father ever stops working.
Jesus teaches( John 5: 39-40) that people of blind faith pore over the scriptures to find life, whereas these very scriptures are pointers to him, to whom they will not come to receive life. The only purpose of church, scriptures, worship, sacraments and ministry, is to point people towards the source of life in Christ. In John the gift of God is always life, sometimes eternal life, rather than the customs and doctrines of religion. The point of faith is not to make a person religious, but to bring her to life.