Monday, November 10, 2014

The great hope that biblical imagery gives us.

As I was sitting in the sanctuary at Sunday’s liturgy yesterday, listening intently to the wonderfully detailed description of the river of life as described in the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, I relished in the detail that was unfolding before us, and really hoped that the listening congregation would pay active (as opposed to passive) attention to the great hope that lay in this portrayal of divine intervention leading to a renewal beyond imagination.

This water that passed from under the Temple flowed, as we are told, into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, making it fresh.  This simple statement would make little impression on anyone if there were not first a basic lesson of geography, which exposes something miraculous taking place in this biblical passage.  The Arabah is a section of the Jordan rift valley with one end being the Sea of Galilee in the north (an inland large lake, actually) and the Dead Sea at the other southern end.   A well known fact is that the Dead Sea is thus named simply because it is a salt saturated lake in which no living being can live, let alone sink.  Anyone having the wonderful opportunity to visit the area and blessed with the chance of physically entering the Dead Sea should take advantage of this if only to test out the claims that one’s buoyancy become greatly enhanced in a body of water that is extremely dense due to its salinity.  I have always had trouble with floating naturally in the swimming pool, and have envied people who could just fall asleep lying on their backs in the water.  But when I had the opportunity to enter the waters of the Dead Sea, I found myself floating on my back without any trouble, save that of being sedulous that not a drop of that saturated saline water should enter my eyes.  Woe to you should you have the slightest broken skin if you enter these waters.  The sting is almost unbearable.

It is with this very vivid experience that anyone encountering the text from Ezekiel would be amazed and awed at the promise of hope and a great reversal of what is found in the physical geography of the region.  That the waters that emerge from the temple should be so life-giving that it makes these waters of the Arabah not only teem with life, but that these waters themselves should become something which give growth to the surrounding flora, making their leaves medicinal.  There is no sign of life in these parts of the land.  To hold firmly to the hope that scripture brings not only to the land, but more significantly, to the parched and lifeless hearts that many of us have is the hope that God gives those who dare to trust in him despite what befalls us in life.

There are far more lifeless deserts within us than there are in the Arabah.  Those areas in our lives where we have seen relationships dry up and shrivel due to our unwillingness to forgive and bury hatchets are only a small but real example.  We may have been so unwilling to give up past hurts with the false pretext that keeping these wounds alive gives us a sense of superiority.  But if we are to live in the promise of new life that Our Lord gives us in his incarnation and good news of salvation, we should be able to wait with great anticipation for that stream of fresh waters that flow out from him into the Arabahs of our hearts. 

And once these waters renew our hitherto lifeless deserts within us, we can become sources of life for those around us where our fruit will be good to eat, and the plants around our hearts, medicinal. 

1 comment:

  1. Just recently I was pointing out to someone (very close to me) about how we tend to hold on to past hurts in order ‘to feel superior to the one that has offended us’ – just as you have stated. I too have fallen into this trap on many occasions.

    By and by though, we end up hurting ourselves, really. Instead of the expansion of the self there is a contraction; a shriveling up.

    I think of the God-Man on the cross, and how for my sake He took upon Himself all the sins of the world – and realize my smallness, my nothingness. And then it becomes blindingly apparent that the ‘hurts’ that I have clung so tightly to are His to take: if only we would let go of them.

    God bless you, Fr. Luke