Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Becoming Christian is like learning how to swim.  The first thing you have to do is get wet – you’ll never learn to swim if you are still afraid of the water.  Baptism is this first introduction to the Christian life: the body is immersed and the soul is cleansed.  The water we are immersed in is Grace, it is the water of God’s mercy.  Getting wet, especially if we are not used to it, can make us feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.  God’s grace and forgiveness can feel a little like that when we are not used to it as well: humility is the  virtue we need to welcome the destabilizing waves of God’s mercy and love.

After we’ve gotten used to getting wet, we still have to leave behind our reliance on solid ground if we’re going to swim.  We have to discover how to float, how to tread water, how to paddle.  All of this corresponds to what we need to grow in faith.  Our earthly life, what we’re going to wear, what we’re going to eat, the people we depend on… all of this keeps us firmly planted on the ground.  Have you ever noticed how hard it is to walk around in water?  Especially when you’re up to your neck?  We can’t move very fast or well.  So it is for the Christian who wants to rely on earthly ways.  We don’t need to feel the ground under our feet, we just need to breathe.  Letting the Holy Spirit move us is a lot like that: moving in and with grace doesn’t require sure footing, we just have to keep breathing: acts of faith, hope, and love.

So long as we are in the shallow end of the pool we have the option of putting our feet back down.  So long as we maintain comfortable and predictable lives, we are trying to “play it safe” with grace.  We cannot domesticate the Holy Spirit of God.  He wants to take us to the deep end, to show us how to swim underwater, how to hold our breath, how to rescue those who are drowning, and teach others to swim.  Living in the Spirit means we no longer need our feet to touch the ground, we float by the pure air that fills our soul.  Come Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul!


“The waters that flow forth from the threshold of the temple refer to the teaching of the church.… We can understand water up to the ankles as meaning first the human sins that are forgiven us who enter the waters of the Lord; they show the saving grace of baptism and are the beginnings of our progress.”1

“Searching into the things of God, we find some easy to understand, as the water up to the ankles; others more difficult, which require a deeper search, as the waters up to the knees or loins; others beyond our reach, of which we can only adore the depth (Ro 11:33).”2

“He did not think it was necessary to travel around and go to every place where people were ill, so that it might not appear that he was looking for fame. Instead he healed one only and through him he revealed himself to many.”3

“When many waters were shown to him and he asked what they were, he received the answer that they were peoples.5 Therefore that water, that is, that people was shut in by the five books of Moses as by five porticoes.

But those books brought forth sick people; they did not heal. For the law convicted sinners; it did not absolve them.…”4

“And this miracle was done so that those [at the pool] who had learned over and over for such a long time how it is possible to heal the diseases of the body by water might more easily believe that water can also heal the diseases of the soul.”5

“There, many who were weary lay sick at that water because it only cured one person a year. No one will be left lying sick here where the waters of baptism are, if they resolve to come and be healed.”6

“We … might persist in prayer for something for ten days or so, and if we have not obtained it, we are too lazy afterwards to employ the same energy [as he did]. And yet, we will wait forever on our fellow human beings, fighting and enduring hardships, performing menial labor, all for the chance of something that in the end fails to meet our expectations. But when it comes to our Master, from whom we are sure to obtain a reward greater than our labors … we exercise no such diligence in waiting on him.… For even if we receive nothing from him, isn’t the very fact that we are able to converse with him continually the cause of ten thousand blessings?”7

“But now through the gift of divine mercy take up your pallet, and in every good work govern your little body and return to your house, that is, return to eternal life.… From it we were thrown into the exile of this world. Therefore, when you hear it said to the paralytic, “take up your pallet, and go into your house,” believe that it is said to you: govern your flesh in all chastity and return to paradise, as if to your own home and your original country.”8

“For, we have not yet reached the Lord, but we have our neighbor with us. Therefore carry him with whom you are walking that you may reach him with whom you long to stay. Therefore “take up your bed, and walk.””9


  1. Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel 14.47.1–5.
  2. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Ez. 47:7-8.
  3. Theodore of Mopsuestia, COMMENTARY ON JOHN 2.5.1. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 178). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John 17.2.1-3.3.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 178). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. Chrysostom, HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 36.1.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. Chromatius of Aquileia,  SERMON 14.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. Chrysostom, HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 36.1–2.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 180). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. Caesarius of Arles, SERMON 171.1.  Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 181). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  9. Augustine, TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 17.9.2–3. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 182). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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