Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Living Water

In Tomorrow's Gospel reading we see Jesus experiencing one of those human emotions that many of us can truly empathize with.  The Scripture says that he looked around at them with anger.  Oh, anger, how I wish to be rid of thee.  Sometimes though, we should be angry!  Here Jesus shows us one of those times.  These same men have been confronting him for some time now in the readings.  They accused him of blasphemy for healing the paralytic who was lowered through the roof.  Then again on the Sabbath for his disciples working and not fasting.  Now here they are once again, thinking in their hearts that he is sinning for healing.  

They aren't watching him to get an example of how to live the Gospel.  They are refusing to see him for who he really is.  They are blinded by their own jealousy, their own fear of losing their influence, their own humanity.  Jesus demands to know, is it wrong to do good?  Is it wrong to save life?  Christ taught us that lesson over and over, that though we should avoid unnecessary work on the Sabbath, works of mercy always supersede our desire and need for rest. 

The Pharisees though did not see God standing right before them.  The Son of Man was standing in their midst, showing them the true breadth and width of the Law, that is he was showing them how to Love.   He offered them a relationship with God.  He offered them a way of living that put the law in it's proper place, as a means to bring rest to the weary and justice to the land.  Instead, they have chosen time and again to refuse his message, to reject his call.  This not only angered him, it grieved him.  Doesn't that normally happen?  When we are trying to give someone something that we know will be good for them, when we offer them love and hope, and they reject it for something they think is better?   Doesn't it frustrate us?  Anger us?  Grieve us? 

Jesus of course heals the man with the withered hand.  He shows us by his own actions the example that we should be following.  He teaches us that our relationship with God is first and foremost, and that the way we live that relationship is through a relationship with one another.  It is in loving others that we serve God the most.    The Pharisees were stumbling over Jesus doing good on the Sabbath, demanding rather that he sit and rest, avoiding work, fasting.  They forgot the words of the Prophet:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:...
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard."

Isn't that then our lesson for this reading?  God desires mercy more than sacrifice, obedience more than burnt offerings.  He wants us to follow Him.  God created the Sabbath to show man that he could both take the rest that he needed and still emulate God.  God didn't need the rest, we did.  He took our own nature and emulated it so that we could then in turn be more like him.  How generous a God is that?  Then he gave us His Son, the visible sign of the invisible God.  He gave us the perfect example to follow.. so in being like Christ, we become more like God.

We are in a world that is filled with temptations and trials.  We constantly have to fight our desires, our flesh.  The early Church Fathers talk about how David and Goliath is the story of the Church, of the fight between Satan and the Body of Christ.  David has given us an example of one who doesn't trust in armor, or trust in swords.  He doesn't put his faith in his own ability to beat Goliath, but rather in the Holy One of Israel.  He steps on to the field armed with only with the tools of a Shepherd.  In the end he is triumphant with just a sling and a stone.  The Lord is our rock.  It is when we arm ourselves with the Rock of the Lord and launch it toward our enemy that we can hope to beat him. 

That means reading Sacred Scripture.  That means studying the Word of the Lord.   That means receiving the Sacraments, often, reverently, and with expectant hope.  That means being more like Christ.   That means reaching out to the widow, the orphan, the refugee.... There is this image from the book of the Prophet Amos that says:

But let justice roll down like waters,    and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

Isn't that what our Church is?  The Eucharist is the source of life, the living waters, the presence of Christ himself.  How much more so should that stream overflow out of us and into the world?  Do you think of yourself as a fountain?  Are you letting Christ overflow from your heart that the rest of the world might experience just a drop of his justice?  Oh, how parched a land this world is, and how refreshing a single drop of that heavenly water to the soul in need.  We have work to do!

His servant and yours, 

"He must increase, I must decrease."