MARCH 16, 2010- TUESDAY 4TH†† WEEK OF LENT: EZ 47:1-9,12; JOHN 5:1-16

 

DO YOU WANT TO BE HEALED? The man to whom Jesus addressed this question never did get around to answering it directly. He did not have to. Our Lord knew that the reason he was staying at the Sheep Pool called Bethesda was his desire for a healing. Saint John does not tell us what illness he suffered from, but the fact that he could not manage to get himself into the water without help allows us to infer that he was a paralytic, his mobility gravely impaired. His disability was not recent. We are informed that he had suffered from this condition for 38 years, a fact that rendered his condition all the more resistant to a cure.

 

Whereas on other occasions our Lord had insisted on faith as a condition for his healing the invalid, in treating with this unfortunate cripple, Jesus, as Johnís account presents him, was so moved by compassion at the seemingly hopeless plight and enforced endurance of the victim that he was moved to heal him spontaneously, no further questions asked. He did not even question his faith. Only later, upon encountering the beneficiary of this miraculous healing later in the temple, Jesus warns him to break with his sins lest he be subject to some worse affliction.

 

The liturgy today places the account of this miraculous healing at Bethesda pool, in the context of the great temple vision of the prophet Ezechiel. The prophet was shown that from the entrance to the Temple there flowed a stream of water that became deeper as it passed through barren country rendering it fertile and as it ended its course rendered the salt waters of the Dead Sea wholesome, teeming with fish of many kinds. The trees along the banks of this stream bear abundant fruit and their leaves provide healing remedies. The message we are to take from these readings is that Jesus who works this healing of the paralytic at the pool in Jerusalem is the new Temple from whom there issues forth the life-giving waters of the Spirit in fruitful abundance. We are invited to identify with this helpless cripple whom Jesus encounters, freely heals, and warns to avoid sin in the future.

 

This healing act of our Lord is all the more appropriate for this season of Lent in that it takes place at a pool in the holy city of Jerusalem, referring us to the cleansing waters of baptism to be conferred at Easter on new converts to the faith. All of us who have been baptized into Christ are recipients of his Holy Spirit, given freely. We are enabled by this gift to take to heart the injunction to avoid sin in the future that Jesus gives to the one he healed,

 

This Lenten season is a time to heed this warning with a more particular attentiveness and a firmer purpose to show gratitude to our healing Savior by fidelity to his word as proclaimed by his Church today as through the past ages. One of the practices in Lent that strengthens us in this purpose is daily prayerful reading of the Lordís words as preserved in the Bible and commented on by his devoted and enlightened followers. Participation in this Eucharist is another for here our Lord himself comes to sustain and strengthen us that we might take into our heart those dispositions he inculcated and carry out in our daily life the acts and that he taught by word and example. &††††††


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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