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…Jesus 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.”
Why didn’t someone – anyone - help this poor man? I find it hard to believe no one noticed him or no one wanted to help him. Yes, these were barbaric times, but no more barbaric than our times. I find it hard to believe that an ill man could be sitting there for thirty-eight years with no one to help him. In St. John’s Gospel, we are told that others had no difficulty in bathing in the pool. Many ill people had come to Bethesda for healing. And while the blind had someone to guide them; the lame someone to help them and the crippled had someone to carry them; this poor wretched creature had no one to help him. Why?
This man was a sinner and no one dared touch him.
Jesus came into the world to heal sinners. And although he came into the world to heal us, he still must ask us, “Do you want to be healed?” Conversion always begins from within. This man, ill for thirty-eight years, doesn’t need new legs; he needs a new heart. He doesn’t need the pool; he needs Jesus.
God knows what this individual did to deserve what he got. And yes, many physical ailments can be a consequence of many spiritual sins. But even in times of trial, the Lord appears. Even in our worst moments, the Lord can be seen. Even in our worst nightmares, the Lord can be found. Christ Jesus appeared to this man and did for him what he wishes to do for us.
Do you want to be healed? Not too long ago, a parishioner began sending me a barrage of e-mails asking for an appointment. I tried to schedule something but for one reason or another we just couldn’t get together. And although I spoke a great number of times on the phone with her, I could never get a clear understanding as to why she wanted to meet with me. Finally, we had a chance to meet for the first time face to face. This person was very elderly and sickly. As soon as she sat down in my office she began to question me on Church doctrine and current events. She communicated to me her disgust and her distaste for the current Administration, the changes in the Church since Vatican II and the infidelity of priests and nuns, the Vatican, and the Pope, etc… She came to my office with a lot of anger. Finally, after a few minutes of this, I asked my old parishioner, “How many children do you have?” “Three.”, she responded, a bit surprised. And not knowing anything about her personal life, I asked her, “And why are they not helping you? Why do you live alone?” She then proceeded to explain to me why one child no longer speaks to her; why another no longer practices the faith and how another became an atheist. But the one thing they all shared in common was that no one helps her.
I told her without mixing any words, “You need to get your family in order before you start trying to fix the world’s (and Church’s) problems. You need to make peace with your children and then you will find peace in your life. You need to put to rest the people that have hurt you and then you will be able to sleep at night.” (In fact, this poor lady could not sleep at night)
“I pray for their conversion”, she said. I said, "That’s not good enough. You need to reach out to them before it is too late. Lent is the perfect time of year to pray for others and to reach out to them with humility and sincerity; in love and compassion."
Most of us would have a hard time reaching out to murderers, rapists, and child predators. Can anyone help? Is anyone will to help them? I, for one, would have a hard time with it, and I know that doesn't say a lot about me. But still I must try. We all must try.
The Lord asks us, “Do you want to be healed?” He asks this question because it’s not a given. He asks us this question because maybe later on we will be able to help.