My brothers and sisters, today I’d like to focus on the first reading we are given – from the prophet Ezekiel. We are given a beautiful description of the temple in Jerusalem – the same temple that Jesus visits in our Gospel reading today. But Ezekiel isn’t just giving us a description of a building. Through his words, God is inviting us to see a deeper reality – the reality of the Body of Christ Jesus – the Church.
Ezekiel says, “I saw water (a river) flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple”. He explains that “wherever the river flowers, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.”
This water, coming from the altar of the temple, brings with it a healing and cleansing power – all is made fresh. And of course Ezekiel is pointing us toward the healing power that comes from the water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ. In John, chapter 19, we hear this detail of Jesus’ crucifixion: “One soldier thrust his lance into the side of Jesus, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” That water that flowed from the pierced side of our Lord is still at work in us today. It washes us clean and makes us new. It heals us.
The waters that flowed from the temple continued into the surrounding areas, and along the banks of the river, trees of every kind grew and produced abundant fruit. Ezekiel says, “Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.” The healing blood and water from the side of Christ changes us. And we will leave this Mass to go back to our homes, our neighborhoods, back to work or school next week. We have been changed for this purpose: TO BRING THE HEALING PRESENCE OF JESUS TO THOSE PLACES. To carry that presence, like a river, from this place, out into the world.
To be called to collaborate with our Lord in that way can be frightening. We absolutely need His healing power to be able to do it. Every time we come to Mass, every time we come to the healing waters of the confessional, we should cry out to God for the grace to be able to go out and face the world. We should cry out for the grace to have a courageous heart – a heart that can overcome our fears. Because the world can sometimes be an ugly place – a place that seems more like a barren desert than the beautiful image that Ezekiel gives us. But Jesus wants to transform it through our lives – He wants our lives to be like that cleansing and healing river. Only Jesus has the power to make our lives like that. But what a gift it is that He wants us to collaborate with Him in this way!
Today as we leave Mass, let’s imagine our family as a great river, leaving this place to bring life and healing into the world. Imagine the family of St Marks as it left this building 125 years ago – a river then as well – with God’s grace, growing stronger and more beautiful throughout the years. The world needs you. It needs this family, here at the corner of Dayton and Moore, to be stronger and to carry the river of God’s love to many more people.
Each one of you is a part of that mission. Last Sunday you were asked to give thought and prayer to your stewardship pledge for the year. Many of you have already turned yours in, and I have seen great generosity – generosity that humbles me and makes me so grateful for this family. Your support is crucial – it is essential to the mission we have as a parish. There are so many good things happening at St Marks – OUR VISION IS NOT SMALL! Your support for our many life-giving ministries and apostolates helps hundreds of souls every week – like that river, bringing life and growth and fruit wherever it flows.
We are all stewards of the work of this living temple of the Church. We are responsible for the work that God wants to do through us – the souls He wants to reach, not just today, but for many generations to come. He expects greatness!
It’s not a coincidence that four more families registered this week to become parishioners (one of those families already turned in their stewardship form – even before we had a chance to send it to them in the mail!). It’s not a coincidence that we had our largest crowd ever at Family First Friday this week. All of us are working hard, and praying harder, so that we can provide the good, solid food that we need for our evangelizing mission – week after week and month after month. The first parishioners 125 years ago made it possible for us to be here and to live this mission – it is our turn to be responsible and to make this family even stronger for the generations who are to come.
You can place your pledge cards in the collection basket today. You can drop them off at the parish center or put them in the mail. You can find the form on our website or at the back of the Church. Please don’t delay. Don’t postpone your generosity – listen to the inspiration of God in your hearts and respond to Him with love and gratitude for all we have been given. And as the Gospel tells us, may the Lord bless your generosity a hundredfold!
Let’s beg Jesus, that like the purifying and healing waters from the temple, He will purify us today and make us new – so that we can bring Him to many others. United in His Sacred Heart we pray….