The Gospel according to John (5:1-16)
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’“
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.
Opening Prayer: Lord our God, you have quenched our thirst for life with the water of baptism.
Keep turning the desert of our arid lives into a paradise of joy and peace, that we may bear fruits of holiness, justice and love. Lord, hear our prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The story of the lame man being healed by Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda is a wonderful story of Jesus’ reaching out to us in our human condition. It’s interesting for a few different reasons, actually. First, the very important question that Jesus poses to the lame man at the beginning: “Do you want to be well?” Jesus does not just barge in and heal the man, and He doesn’t seem to make much of a show about doing it. No, rather, what He does is to ask if the man was really ready for healing. From a practical sense, that is a very logical question! The man had, after all, been lame, lying by that pool, for 38 years! We don’t know how old he was, but it’s pretty likely that he would have had no recollection of *not* being lame. Being healed would change his life in a very real way. Was he ready for that upheaval in his life?
Jesus wants to heal all of us. The things we need healing of can be big or small, but the one thing that is true is that He absolutely has the power to heal us. The question is if we are ready to let go of whatever that is. In our flawed human condition, we sometimes aren’t ready to let go of the things that tie us down and keep us from being a follower of Jesus. During this Lenten season, Jesus longs for us to hand over to Him those burdens. Will we be willing to do that? Will we be willing to see the potential “upheaval” in our lives for letting go of them?
Another interesting point from the story is the reaction of the Jewish leaders to the miracle. Do they give glory to God for His healing of the man? Absolutely not. They instead focus on the fact that the whole activity was on the Sabbath, and that the man was now violating the law for carrying his mat! It’s hard to imagine them missing the point more completely than they did.
The important thing to note, though, is that these who made the complaint were examples of the Pharisees who knew the law backwards and forwards, but thought that the law itself was the end-all of their faith. Jesus gives the example here that the guidelines we follow are to give our lives structure and can help us draw closer to God, but they are not the main priority. The main priority is to love as Jesus loved. That same mistaken priority on the rules can get in our ways, even in our modern day. The most important thing we can do is love as Jesus loved. Jesus made it perfectly clear when He was asked what were the most important laws. He said, “Love God and love your neighbor”. It really is that simple.
Of course, it’s simple and difficult at the same time. Loving our neighbor, especially, is hard, because it means we don’t prioritize our own needs ahead of those who lack. That viewpoint in life is illustrated in the Corporal Works of Mercy, which we are studying in more detail at our parish this Lent. Carrying out the Corporal Works is how we love our neighbor. It’s the challenge for each of us this Lent to try to live out that love better each day.
So, how do we grow to love our neighbor better? By asking God to heal us of whatever weighs us down, by accepting that healing, and then by seeing everyone as our neighbor, and acting with love and care toward everyone we meet. Let us start with those in our own homes, even the ones who are hard to love. That will help us to see the miracles in our day-to-day lives, and to see God’s face in everyone we meet, and long to respect the dignity of every person, because each of us is beloved of God.
Closing Prayer: Lord, help me to see Your face in everyone I meet, and to love them as my neighbor, and to tend to their needs however I can. Help me to be open to Your healing, and for how You want to work in my life! Amen.
Action for the Day: Do a kind deed for a “neighbor”, without any fanfare or expectation. And, when you have that opportunity, give thanks to God for putting you in the right place at the right time!