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A couple of days ago, the Bible reading at Mass was from the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet who lived many years before Christ was born. A prophet was someone who essentially spoke to the people on God’s behalf. God would sometimes tell the prophet directly what to say. Other times, He would speak to him in a vision or dream.
I can’t say Ezekiel is one of my favorite books in the Bible. His dreams and visions, while vivid and interesting, sound like something out of a bad acid trip. But the particular vision or dream being described in the passage a couple days ago was actually not at all like that. It was beautiful in its simplicity.
In it, Ezekiel stood with an angel facing the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the place where God literally lived among his people. And in this vision, flowing out of the Temple came a very small stream of water – maybe even just a trickle.
The angel and Ezekiel walked about a thousand feet further away from the Temple along the path the water took, and he discovered that a little away from the temple, this trickle had become a small stream that came up to about his ankles. They went another thousand feet and he found the water came up to his knees. They went another thousand, and it came up to his waist. Yet another thousand down the path and what was a trickle back at the Temple had become a river that you would have had to swim across to get to the other side.
The angel then explained to the prophet that this river was a freshwater river, and that wherever it went and watered, life would flourish. Animals would multiply and live. Trees would put forth unfailing fruit to feed people and leaves that could be used for healing. And when this water finally emptied out into the ocean, instead of becoming salt water itself, it would actually change the salt water in the ocean into freshwater.
The beauty of the vision, of course, doesn’t come from the fact that there is an angel leading Ezekiel around. What is so beautiful about the vision is the idea that something so small and seemingly insignificant, because it comes from the presence of God, could become something that literally changes everything. It’s just a trickle flowing from the Temple, as though the faucet had been left on inside and was overflowing out onto the pavement. But what seems so small, with the power of God, brings life and grows wherever it goes.
Today, Christians don’t go to a real physical Temple in quite the same way the Jews did partly because the Bible says that we are the temple. Jesus Christ lives in us, which is to say, God lives in us. The living water flowing from the Temple in Ezekiel’s vision is the living water flowing out of us. If we let God work in us, we bring Christ to everyone we meet wherever we go. When we pray for our coworkers, children and friends, we bring that living water into their lives. When we speak a kind word or bring encouragement to others in sorrow, we bring Christ’s love to them.
And what we bring can feel so small in the grand scheme of things. The mother says, “I am just changing diapers and putting out fires all day.” The man says, “I’m just typing on a computer and pushing paper all day.” The child says, “No one listens to me. I am small. I am insignificant.” But the Virgin Mary was just a mother. And Joseph was just a carpenter. And Jesus was once a child. And their simple, small obedience done with love meant the salvation of the world. The Eucharist given to us each Sunday looks like just another piece of bread and just another cup of wine, but it transforms our lives as the body and blood of Christ.
Our very small sacrifices and acts of kindness done with love will mean at least a bit of the world’s salvation, too. It will transform the world. Our lives are but a trickle. You and I are practically lost in a sea of 7 billion people, but those small streams flow from the throne of God. And that will make all the difference.
(Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; I Cor. 6:19)