In today’s first reading we hear from the Prophet Ezekiel. It is from the end of his prophetic writings and there is a lot of “water under bridge” that has led to this amazing vision of a new temple being the source of restorative and living water that is so inevitable, so powerful, that even the Dead Sea valley will be restored. The language used echoes that of the story of creation from the Book of Genesis.
Many people equate this with a new Jerusalem – a term Ezekiel never uses. They also then assume it is another earthly Temple finally replacing the one destroyed by the Babylonians – something Ezekiel never infers. But the prophet does have a name for the new paradise garden in the heart of the promised land: “the Lord is there.”
This passage is from the final 12 chapters in which Ezekiel is speaking to the exiles in Babylon who wonder how they got into this situation, where is God in all this, and what God is going to do about this calamity. The prophet’s message is that God will restore the faithful remnant to be His covenant people, defeat the nations who stand in opposition to the people, and restore creation. The reading is part of that restoration vision.
In a way the first reading is a response to the movement within the Gospel:
- “Do you want to be well?”
- “Sir, I have no one…”
- “Rise up ….”
- “Look, you are well; do not sin any more ”
As with many healing stories, especially in the Gospel of John, they serve as signs that point to the larger purpose and promise of God to watch over and heal his covenant people.
I hope that both readings echo in your memory when you find yourself wondering how you got into this situation, where is God in all this, and what God is going to do about your calamity. It is in prayer and grace that you will find the garden nourished by the living water. The garden whose name is “the Lord is there.”
Image credit: “Vision of Ezekiel” by Paul Falconer Poole, c.1875; Tate Museum Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0)
If you are interested in short video overview of Ezekiel you can find it here: Book of Ezekiel Summary: A Complete Animated Overview (Part 2)