I recently watched an episode of David Attenborough’s many remarkable nature programmes, and discovered that one of the driest places on Earth is the Atacama Desert in Chile. In some parts of the desert it hasn’t rained for more than four hundred years. And yet, on a single day in March 2015, thunderstorms brought nearly a full inch of rain. Seeds, dried up and dormant for years, exploded in a burst of life and colour. The lifeless, dusty, and desolate land became a place of beauty and fruitfulness. All this because water brought life to barren, salty ground.
If you have visited the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, you will no doubt remember the magnificent domed apse which contains a stunning mosaic featuring the river of life described in today’s first reading. Being the cathedral for the Bishop of Rome, this church has long been considered the source of many graces that flows to all the churches throughout the world which are in union with the See of Rome.
The prophet Ezekiel uses this image of life-giving water to give us a message of hope: God can bring life to our dead places. We all have dry areas in our lives where we need God’s refreshing water. Perhaps it’s a broken relationship in which hurts and misunderstandings have left us lonely or drained of love. Maybe our prayer seems dry, and it’s been a long time since we have felt really close to God. Or maybe someone we know is suffering, and we feel helpless to change anything, and hopeless that anything will ever change.
Whatever our desert may be, God wants to bring his refreshing water there. Ezekiel saw this water flowing out from the Temple, God’s dwelling place. But St. Paul reminds us that we are all temples of God and that the Holy Spirit already lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). And so today on this feast, let us ask God to drench us in his living water so that he may revive the dry areas of our life.