God promises to restore Israel from its exile, Ezekiel says in today’s first reading.( Ezekiel 36, 23-38 ) God’s honor and power have been shamed and questioned, not just Israel’s honor and power. And so God say: “I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations in whose midst you have profaned it.”
Israel’s re-creation is undertaken by God’s initiative, not human initiative. The waters of Genesis flow again. “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”
“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”
Pope Francis remarked on the sacredness of water in his letter “Desiderio Desideravi.” Water is a pledge of God’s promise of life, to each of us in Baptism and to our world through sacred history:
“He used water to regenerate humanity through the flood (Ge 6:1-9,29). He controlled it, separating it to open the way of freedom through the Red Sea (cf. Ex 14). He consecrated it in the Jordan, plunging into it the flesh of the Word soaked in the Spirit. (cf. Ma 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22) At the end he blended it with the blood of his Son, the gift of the Spirit inseparably united with the gift of the life and death of the Lamb slain for us, and from his pierced side he poured it out over us. (Jn 19:34) And it is into this water that we have been immersed so that through its power we can be inserted into the Body of Christ and with him rise to immortal life. (cf. Ro 6:1-11)” (Desidero Desideravi 13)
“I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you…This once-desolate land has become like the garden of Eden,” the nations that once ridiculed God’s power will say. The cities once ruined, laid waste and destroyed, are now resettled and fortified.”
God’s promise still stands. We’re reminded of it in the water.