Healing on a Sabbath

John 5: 1-16
Ezek 47: 1-9, 12 / Ps 46: 2-3, 5-6, 8-9

Do you want to get well?
(John 5:6)

As water is life, so is God’s Word
Healing me and nourishing my soul;
Steadfast is the promise of our Lord,
In our brokenness, making us whole.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, `Take up your pallet, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, `Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the Sabbath.


Today’s Gospel shows us that God helps those who cannot help themselves. Even those who have no faith, like the cripple at the pool of Bethesda, who should have known better that after 38 years, that pagan place of healing offered no hope; the reason perhaps why Jesus had to ask him if he still wanted to get well. Some people get so stuck in the rut that they no longer know what they need. Just like the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 38 years because of their lack of faith. It was God’s way of weeding out the old generation, so that a younger Chosen People under Joshua, with stronger faith in Him would enter the Promised land.

Jesus asked the cripple, “Do you want to get well?” Missing our Lord’s intention, the man answered, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool…” Such is our human nature to put our trust in our own strength, in others, or in some material assistance, instead of looking up to the proffered Hand of God, our beloved Father, Who is just waiting for us to seek His help when everything else fails. The crippled man put his faith in the stagnant pool of Bethesda, just like the Jews whose man-made traditions like their strict observance of the Sabbath kept their faith stagnant, insipid and crippled. It is only in Jesus Christ, and in the life-giving fresh waters of His Church that the prophet Ezekiel described in the first reading (Ezek. 47:12) where we can find true sustenance and healing for our body and soul. Our Church is the temple that Ezekiel prophesied about, and the fresh waters that flow from underneath are the sacraments, like Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Penance, and the Holy Eucharist that our Lord Jesus instituted to make us bear fruit and be healed of all our infirmities.

We praise You, Lord, for making us realize that the healing of our soul’s paralysis, such as the forgiveness of our sins, is more important than the healing of our physical ailments, or even the observance of our man-made traditions. Amen.

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