"Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up" (John 5:5).
Water means life, especially for a people born in the desert. Hebrew slaves had survived for 40 years in the Sinai after their escape from Egypt. Entry into the “promised land” meant a watered land filled with vineyards and fig tree orchards, lush grazing for their flocks.
Today’s readings from Ezekiel 47 and John 5 play on the theme of life-giving water. The cripple at the pool at Bethsaida had been waiting 38 years to be healed, and his encounter with Jesus, the source of life, would end his long drought and free him from his bondage. This scene follows the story in John 4 of another encounter at Jacob’s well at Sychar, a Samaritan woman thirsty for love who finds springs of love without limit in Jesus.
Years ago, I was sitting in the shadows at the back of a small chapel when a man entered and stood gazing up at a large crucifix near the front. I knew the man enough to know that he was struggling with a serious alcohol addiction. His prayer was reflected in his upturned face, desperate to be free of this affliction, which had become a matter of life or death.
I could not know the meaning of that encounter for him, but in my mind’s eye I imagined the figure on the cross saying to him, “I thirst.” Only someone who has experienced the soul-parched emptiness of the addict can know what recovery costs and how hard it is to rise up and walk free again. Jesus was not offering a miracle, but to accompany the man through death to new life.
How thirsty are you? The real enemy of conversion is shallow satisfaction, having just enough of everything to never feel desperate for real life, deep fulfillment. This is why during Lent we are urged to find the desert in our wants and needs, to fast a little to awaken real hunger and thirst for the genuine source of life. Uncover the well within and find God, real love, deep satisfaction, a never-ending fountain of life.