“Wherever the river flows,
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.”
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.
—John 5: 1-16
The readings from today draw out a few themes I have really been pondering in my last semester of college in which I’ve gotten the chance to read writings by Fr. Richard Rohr, Fr. Michael Himes, and liberation theologians. (Highly recommended!)
To start with Ezekiel, the abundance of gift and interconnectedness. The Jesuits love to talk about “seeing God in all things” and while that sounds awfully nice, it has always been a confusing for me when I actually get to thinking about it.
Maybe God means what She says in that when God made creation, God knew it was good. Lent, and really my final year of college, has had me on this whole cycle thinking about life as radically unnecessary/contingent, and therefore totally a gift. What happens when the river washes over us, reminding us of this truth? For me, the past months—in ways big and small—have provided reminders, wake-up calls, overwhelming washes of the fact that life is profoundly good; life is a gift. Starting from the reality of my own limited time that I get on this earth, it becomes easy to start waking up to that truth and mystery in everyone and everything around me. Anything from late night jam sessions with roommates playing “Country Roads” and Jason Derulo’s “Whatcha Say” on ukulele, to running and hiking outside last week amidst snowcapped mountains to attending lectures by overly-educated academia types become sacred moments when seen through the lens of contingency and goodness.
As of late, the river keeps flowing towards me with constant reminders, and I feel the abundance pouring out in real tangible ways. My sense of gratitude, but also senses of responsibility in my care for relationships and for my own self have grown as a response. I am operating under the growing suspicion that the Jesuits are on to something. Everything is gift, the whole of creation might just be the incarnation of God.
I guess what makes Jesus so special is that He was fully awake to this idea, that creation was good, that His part in it—as a living, breathing, dying human being—was utterly good, so good that God chooses to enter as Jesus into all of it with us. Maybe the sick man that Jesus encounters in the Gospel just hasn’t been lucky enough to be introduced to this language for understanding how radically important and good his place is “among the family of things” as Mary Oliver says. All Jesus needs to do is remind him that he is good, that this is all a gift, that we GET to participate in the world, if only for 33 years ending with a humiliating death on a cross.
I guess it might be the task of our lives to continue to remind ourselves and each other of this easy but quite slippery truth of our own goodness and lovableness. So much of the world’s evil, personal and structural, happens when we stop reminding each other that we are not God and that this human (and all) life is good and a gift.
—John DiBello ‘16