A Sabbath Healing

John 5: 1-16
Ez 47:1-9,12 / Psa 46

See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.
(John 5:14)

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.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid replied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him. (John 5: 1-16)


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 withered, blind 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 for our 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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