17 March: 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 towards 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 round on the outside to the outer gate that faces towards the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

Going on eastwards 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 one side and on the other. He said to me, ‘This water flows towards 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. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. 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.’

After warnings throughout much of the prophecy of Ezekiel of coming judgement on Israel and the nations, chapters 33-48 focus on future blessings for Israel, most famously in the story of the dry bones coming to life. In this extract we hear a prophecy of great waters flowing out from the Temple in Jerusalem, a vision picked up by Zechariah after the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon (Zechariah 14:8 – “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter”) and subsequently in Revelation 22:1 (“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb”).

In Ezekiel’s vision we hear how the waters well-up from beneath the Temple, flowing out to the east. The water is a great source of life making stagnant waters fresh and abundant with creatures, both within the waters and growing along its banks. Jesus, as the Temple in the New Jerusalem, is the source of these waters, with the Holy Spirit flowing out over all the nations. This great outpouring of grace to all peoples began with the sharing of the Gospel by the Apostles and continues today with us. We, as the church, are the body of Christ and thus we are called to be this living water, flowing out from God, teeming with life, and providing food and healing along our banks.

This vision is like the great abundance of life to be found in the oceans, perhaps on a coral reef, or at a deep-ocean vent. In otherwise barren regions of the ocean, something provides a source of nutrients, and creatures of all shapes and sizes flock to this source of life – from plants, and tiny crustaceans through to great shoals of fish and to some of the largest fish and mammals in the sea; an abundance and richness of life.

This is the vision God has for his Church – with Jesus as our source, through each one of us as his Church, life abundant is poured out to the world; such that initially the stream is ankle-deep, rising to knee-deep, then waist-deep until this river of the outpouring of God’s grace is so great that it cannot be crossed. Like an ecosystem, we all have a small but essential part to play in this outpouring of God’s grace, so let us pray that each day, this Lent, we may share something of God’s grace and the outpouring of his Holy Spirit with all whom we meet.

A Prayer attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.