By Ben Smith, Catholic Outlook, February 2017
During this summer, Sydney recorded some of its hottest nights on record. Penrith in Western Sydney reached 36°C at midnight on 13 January 2017.
At times like these the power of water to cool and refresh our bodies becomes apparent. Whether it’s a trip to Wet’n’Wild, Bondi Beach or even a few goes on a backyard Slip’n’Slide, Australians flock to water to beat the summer heat. The trees in our gardens struggle with the heat and a daily watering helps them survive the summer.
This life-giving power of water is true of the physical world as well as the spiritual world. Jesus in his conversation with the woman at the well offered her living water. Living water is a theme that stretches through the Bible from the Book of Genesis, through the Old Testament Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels and in the Book of Revelations.
It flows from holy places (the Garden of Eden or the Temple in the New Jerusalem) and transforms the landscape that it encounters.
The prophet Ezekiel had a vision in which he saw living water flowing out of the Temple:
“This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes.” (Ezekiel 47: 8-9)
The spiritual power of living water is evident in the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism regenerates and washes our souls from the blemish of the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden and any other sins we had previously committed. Every Lent and Easter season provides the opportunity to rediscover this regeneration.
Vatican II encouraged the Church to rediscover the twofold character of the season of Lent “primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 109)
Families are encouraged to practice penance during Lent, including fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Project Compassion money boxes are a good thing for kids to use to help their minds to focus on the needy, often in the poorest countries in the world.
For the second year, the Life, Marriage & Family Office in the Diocese of Parramatta has developed a Lenten program for families. Lead us to Living Water will be distributed through parishes this month.
To assist families in exploring the baptismal dimension of Lent, the program uses the theme of living water. The program is structured around the Sunday Scripture readings for the five weeks of Lent, Palm Sunday and the major days of Holy Week.
The program provides material for parents to give them a chance to reflect on the readings and theme of the week so they are prepared to lead family and children’s activities and guide their children through Lent.
When our children are young, their curiosity and imagination are at their peak and they are at a ripe age for faith development, especially when they are preparing to receive the sacraments.
During this precious time we can help our children form a close personal relationship with Jesus, whose merciful love will fill their hearts and overflow into all their relationships.
This Lent will provide you and your family with the chance to go on a special 40-day journey with Jesus to experience the hope of the power of living water that he offers to all who seek it.
To download a copy of Lead us to Living Water, click here.
Ben Smith is Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Office in the Diocese of Parramatta.