“When I prove my holiness among you, I will gather you from all the foreign lands; and I will pour clean water upon you and cleanse you from all your impurities, and I will give you a new spirit, says the Lord.” This is the alternative entrance antiphon for our Mass this Sunday; the third Sunday of Lent.
I have emphasised the words “water” and “spirit” in the entrance antiphon above because the Bible is packed with imagery of water and spirit that often go hand in hand. Beginning in the very first chapter of the Bible, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters before the creation began. A few chapters later, Noah sent forth a dove over the waters to see if the land had appeared after the flood. Millenia later, the Spirit would descend upon Jesus in the form of a dove after being baptised with water in the River Jordan; and there are many more examples too. This is the theme of the Readings this Sunday.
In our First Reading, we are told of the faithless Israelites who, yet again, are grumbling at their temporal necessities: Hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. Moses gets worried because the people seem to be blaming him for being obedient to God and leading the Israelites out of Egypt — out of slavery — at God’s hand. God, understanding the needs of His people yet desiring them to have more faith in His goodness, commands Moses saying, “Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river (Red Sea), and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb (Mt Sinai). You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.”
This event, just like thousands in the Old Testament, looks forward to its true fulfilment in the New Testament. The rock in the story is representing somebody, and our Psalm this Sunday tells us who it is: “Come, ring out our joy to the Lord; hail the Rock who saves us.” If we apply this to the New Testament, then we see that the “Rock” is Jesus Himself. And this Rock, Jesus, was also “struck” by the Israelites and out poured water from His side (see John 19:34).
St Augustine says about this:
The Evangelist has expressed himself cautiously; not “struck,” or “wounded,” but “opened His side:” whereby was opened the gate of life, from where the Sacraments of the Church flowed, without which we cannot enter into that Life which is the true Life: And there flowed blood and water… This was prefigured