When St. John wrote the gospel that bears his name, the temple in Jerusalem was gone, destroyed by the Romans, & the earliest of Christians had been expelled from their community synagogues. They were now gathering secretly in private homes & in the underground, the catacombs of Rome.
In that environment, the spear thrust on Good Friday, & the pouring out of water & wine from the wound take on enormous importance. The flowing water & wine from Jesus provide sustenance for those earliest Christians, the sacrament of Baptism & Holy Eucharist. The horrific death of Jesus on the cross is transformed into yet another sign of God’s amazing love for the people of God.
The story of the waters of salvation goes back to the waters at creation, the flood endured by Noah & the ark, the parting of the Red Sea for the fleeing slaves guided by Moses, the parting of the Jordan River so the Hebrews could enter the Promised Land, & includes Jesus offering “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” to the Samartan woman at the well.
The flowing of the blood recalls the words of Jesus at the Last Supper – “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you”, & then all disciples drank from it. For the people of ancient Israel, living the discipline of kosher, blood was the life-force of all creation.
So the flow of water & blood from the side of Jesus directs us to the gifts of the sacraments of Baptism & Holy Eucharist. These two gifts continue to sustain us, to enrich us, as the people of God. They are the sacraments of God’s amazing love.