LI. The Pope next explores the principal images used by John’s Gospel. First is water, the primordial element of life. Water can be a spring – origin, purity, unclouded and unspent purity and fruitfulness. Water can be flowing sources of life, like the rivers known to Israel – the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Nile, and its own Jordan. The flowing waters, though, can also bring death and destruction. Water can also be the sea, suggesting power and majesty not within human control, and boundaries to human domains that are crossed only with great risk.
Water appears first in the conversation with Nicodemus, where Jesus says “unless you are born of water and the spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Water here is related to rebirth in the womb of the Church’s baptismal font. Next is the conversation at Jacob’s Well with the Samaritan woman who comes to draw water and is introduced to the spring of eternal life given through faith. Water next appears with the healing of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda. Jesus sends the man born blind to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Jesus washes the disciples’ fee at the Last Supper. From His pierced side on the Cross, blood and water flow out. All of these, and more, have roots in Old Testament foreshadowings of the water that would purify the Temple and flow from it to give life to the nations. Every time we use the holy water when we enter or leave church, we are connected with this rich and multiple meaning of water in the Gospel.