Friday, August 12, 2022

Homilies

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.
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Cisterns

Homily for Thursday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

The passage that we hear from the prophet Jeremiah today ends with one of my favorite verses: “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” A cistern is a waterproof container for liquids, usually water. They were built to store rainwater for household use before the advent of modern plumbing. They differ from wells in that they are waterproof containers while wells are dug into the earth until they reach a water table. Older homes usually had a cistern in the basement. Most homes in our own times no longer depend upon cisterns as a source for water. The only kind of cistern that is prevalent in modern culture is the tank that sits on our commodes.

The image of the broken cistern which Jeremiah invokes today is powerful. If it holds no water, a cistern is useless. The fact that God identifies as the source of living water makes the broken cistern an even more powerful image. Turning their backs on God and worshiping foreign idols has deprived them of being able to access the living water that God provides. Instead, they have turned to Baal, a pagan god whose followers associated it with storms, including rainstorms, and fertility.

The water image is picked up in our responsorial psalm which invokes God as the fountain of life. The psalmist uses references to clouds, the deep, delightful streams, and the fountain of life to emphasize the fact that water is an absolute necessity for people who live in a desert climate such as the kingdom of Israel.

Jesus himself used the image of living water especially in the Gospel of St. John. We use water that has been blessed as a way to remember our baptism, which the early Fathers of the Church referred to as a saving bath. Jesus is the source of living water for us. As we celebrate this Eucharist, we give thanks for the grace that we receive through the sacramental presence of Jesus in our lives.

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