Tuesday 5th April 2011 Fourth Week of Lent Gospel Reflection

Mass readings for today are here

Gospel John 5 : 1-16
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.

In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.


Bethesda pool James Tissot

When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”

The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”


Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”


Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 

He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’“
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”

The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.

After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.

Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

 Excavations in Israel have revealed the Pool of Bethesda, a complex of deep cisterns and baths in use since the 8th century BC.The name of the pool is said to be derived from the Aramaic language, beth hesda, meaning either house of mercy or grace.
It seems that the site in Jesus' time would have had one pool dedicated to a Roman god of healing.

The video below brings this story to life and continues the story depicting the uncompromising  anger of Jesus and the palpable and growing menace from the Pharisees.

There are many things that leave me feeing paralysed and sometimes I can linger in that state and it becomes easy to stay there. 
I sheepishly follow the daily grind.
I settle for small shallow pools to swim in and small horizons of "pretend -hope" that I believe I have little power to change.

But Jesus challenges me to widen and expand those horizons I have grown accustomed to and encourages me to swim deeper.

Too often I have held  out for those special moments, the miraculous ones that would promise to rid me of the mundane and hard ordinariness of life; When younger I longed for those moments when a miracle of great drama would happen, when my faith would be surfing on the crest of waves so fine ... things would change big time.

And  now past mid-life I find myself lamely sitting on the shoreline and what does Christ say to me now?
Take up your bed and walk !

Then I realise that there are some graces I would honestly rather not receive and that there are sacrifices I would rather not make.... why ? Because they are painful and  lead me to the cross.

If I trust Jesus then I must know that the grand route to all that is life - giving passes through the way of the ordinary and begins with my core belief to truly do His will, rather than my own foolish attempts to control things.

Flawed and painful as it is, it is only in the normal ebb and flow of life, in the nitty gritty messy day to day living that I will be able to find God's life bubbling through.

At unexpected  times of crisis, challenge and failure, at all of life's natural thresholds and turning points I  am prompted to arrogantly ask Does God hear me? 

During  times when I am preoccupied with the painful awareness of my own limitations and self defeating patterns of thought and behaviour I need to turn to God and respond to his love.
Christ understood what it meant to be fully human. He knows the feeble excuses I am compelled to fabricate when I cling to the familiar patterns of my failures. He looks deeper within.

When I hide under the arches and wallow beside the metaphorical pools of Bethesda and the compulsions of secular life he cares to find me and asks me gently to abandon those illusions. 

When I cling to the sense of life's unfairness and shirk from facing the daily challenges ( spiritual, psychological, physical) that everyday brings,  Christ loosens my grip and asks me to open my hands to receive what he has to offer.

When I realise that getting older asks me to mourn my losses, my hurts, my shattered dreams and my own perverse willfullness, Christ cries with me and prevents me from the intensifying bitterness that holding back in denial brings.

In a moment of clarity the man at the pool recognised what Jesus was asking : not to cling to the role of victim but to get up and walk the talk. Jesus gave him the essential courage to confront  his fears.

There is always a wide gulf between what I truly desire and what life actually gives; the unwanted sufferings, the interior and exterior struggles and yet I know that all the sorrows can make me feel compassion for others who are struggling too.

My deepest desires are God given and I have to align myself and kneel before  the cross and say I am willing to be instruments of any use in Christ's hands.

The experience of being touched by God is difficult to image and express and all the parables I read through Lent and beyond are intimations to allow me to connect to the reality of what that means for all of us, unique to our own situations and concrete life experiences. 

We are all responding to that invitation from Christ to follow Him, to the centre of the harrowing grief of Good Friday and then the ultimate and awesome joy of Easter.
My basic stance before God is often like the man at the pool- one of lacklustre  laziness, tiredness, restlessness, discouragement  and anger. 

My deepest desires so often seem  thwarted and stagnated, compromised by excuses, confusion and boredom.
Somehow, somewhere God stops and looks at me, invites me to stand up and come closer : if only I would take up my bed and walk !!
The whole of the journey into Lent is an invitation from Christ to shed the things I hang onto, the self- inflations, the limited self perception of what is possible. 

He asks me to stand up  and hold my hands out so that I can receive the only gift of love that will satisfy my restless heart., the only love that truly heals.


Phil Ewing said...

Hi Andrea. Yes, these last few years have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me in many ways. Giving up work and health issues have dominated my life and today we attended the fourth funeral in a year for close friends- all due to cancer. So sad for their families and those left behind.

On the posting side of things. Thanks for letting me know. No-one else has mentioned it so far. I changed my blog over to the Disqus system afew weeks ago and didn't know too much about it.
If it becomes a problem I have no idea how to fix it !!

Andreaw said...

Beautiful reflection Phil. I'm right there with you. Isn't it so true that so much changes in midlife and beyond, perspective, opinions, desires, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us...
By the way, I've had trouble commenting on some of your posts. I begin and then I'm knocked off...has anyone else had this trouble?