Water is so important to us, and we see a lot of water in these readings. Water refreshes us, sustains us, cleans us. And when the readings talk so much about water, what we are being led to is a reflection on baptism. We ourselves are the sick and lame man who needed Jesus’ help to get into the waters of Bethesda. The name “Bethesda” means “house of mercy” in Hebrew, and that, of course, is a symbol of the Church. We see the Church also in the temple in the first reading, from which waters flow which refresh and nourish the surrounding countryside. These, of course, again are the waters of baptism. Lent calls us to renew ourselves in baptism. We are called to renew ourselves in those waters that heal our bodies and our souls. We are called to drink deep of the grace of God so that we can go forth and refresh the world.
But what really stands out in this Gospel is the mercy of Jesus. I think it’s summed up in one statement that maybe we might not catch as merciful at first: “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” I’m sure being ill for thirty-eight years is really bad. It’s hard to imagine anything being worse. But I’m also pretty sure missing out on the kingdom of God would be that one, much worse, thing. There is mercy in being called to repentance, which renews us in our baptismal commitments and makes us fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Sometimes parishes have removed the holy water from church during Lent in a kind of fasting. This is exactly why you shouldn’t: Lent is all about baptism, all about God’s mercy, all about being renewed and refreshed and healed in God’s grace. It’s only recently that we have been able to put holy water back in the font and stoups again after draining them due to the pandemic, and I couldn’t be happier to have it back!
So I encourage you all to not take holy water for granted. Think about that the next time you put your hand into the font and stir up those waters of mercy. Be healed and made new; go, and from now on, do not sin any more.