Carl Bloch: The man healed by the Pool of Bethesda
Water, water everywhere. Nothing has sprung a leak but the readings for this Tuesday are rich with images of water, new life, healing and Baptism, which is a perennial Lenten theme.
From the woman at the well on the 3rd Sunday of Lent to this past Sunday’s Gospel of the blind man who washed his eyes and was given the gift of sight to Tuesdays’ crippled man of many years who was healed by Jesus at the Pools of Bethesda. These are inspiring stories and remind us of where Jesus went to receive faith – outside the normal population to those who lived on the fringe of society: a Samaritan woman, a pitiful blind man, and a poor cripple each teach us to listen, hear and follow Jesus as his disciples. It seems they become icons of compassion who portray images for the healing of our own lives.
Ezekiel’s image of the Temple of Jerusalem (first reading) being surrounded by rising waters which begin as a trickle and end as a quick flowing river gives pause to think of the grace of our Baptism.
Being a Christian is not about status. If it was Jesus would have spent all his time with the high and the mighty; with the rich and the powerful; with the Pharisees, the Roman rulers and High Priests of Jerusalem. But he seemed to save the harshest words for them due to their pride, blindness and hypocrisy.
Christianity is about loving service to others after the example of Jesus. It is not a passive religion or a private devotion. All those have their place in prayer, of course, but as we are told at the end of each Mass: "Go to love and serve the Lord." Jesus went to the outcast, the poor, the forgotten, and those marked as useless and sinful by the whole of ancient society. Those we’ve seen in our Lenten Gospel passages. They teach us about faith.
One of the things I enjoy most about the priesthood is being surprised by the simplicity of children. Yes, they can be very frustrating at times as I was reminded this past Sunday with three well-meaning but very confused altar servers. (We'll work on that.) But, God uses children to teach us more sophisticated adults how to be more trusting, humble, and joyful about our faith.
The ancient pool of Bethesda, a place of mercy, was a popular gathering place for the unfortunates. They believed the waters of the pool had healing powers which, when stirred up by an angel, would cure those who entered into the waters. The poor man who Jesus encountered hung on to that hope for 38 years! With Jesus’ words, “Do you want to be well?” the man’s desire is acknowledged by Jesus. Then he states, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” And so the man does. And so do we in the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.
No longer crippled or an outcast he rises to new life. A kind of resurrection – from a pitiable life, a life as if dead, the man rises and walks from the tomb of his misfortune by the power of God in Christ.
Maybe take a moment and put yourself in the scene. What feelings do you have as you see the man speaking to Jesus? What hopes? The man rises and walks with an incredulous look on his face. This Lent offers us a time to plead with the Lord for our own healings.