Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Thirty-eight years is a very long time. In fact, when you think of the paralytic waiting to be healed at the portico of the pools of Bethesda, some questions come to mind. You might wonder if he might have been a professional beggar. You might ask, were there people taking advantage of his handicap and forcing him to beg? Did they take whatever he collected and only gave him food and shelter each night? Was this a form of human slavery?
Mixed emotions arise as the incident unfolds. Jesus approached him and asked: “Do you wish to be well?” The man didn’t say “yes,” only that he had no one to carry him to the healing waters. As the story unfolds, Jesus reaches out, cures him, and tells him to get up, pick up his mat and walk. And the man does it. But where is the appreciation, where is the joy, after 38 years? Even though he was able to walk and carry his mat when confronted by purists of the law who accused him of breaking the law for carrying the mat, he actually blamed the one who showed him kindness. Was he so conditioned by prolonged and forced circumstances that he was not able to recognize kindness?
Toward the end of the story, it is Jesus in an act of overflowing mercy, who recognizes the former beggar and says:
“Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
We are left with unsettling questions when the former beggar came to know that it was Jesus who cured him. Was he now able to walk away from 38 years of torment? Could he at last use the name of Jesus to “stand up” to those who might have been controlling him? We wonder.
1) Does the fact of world-wide human slavery today touch your consciousness?
2) What does the overflowing mercy of Jesus teach you about human dignity and trust?
Reflection by Fr. Daniel Petsche, OSB