March 12, 2013

The Gospel Today

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Jn 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.
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.

Reflection (Sem. Jason J. Villafuerte)

The Gospel today is another moving story where Jesus healed a person. It was about a man who has been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him, he asked: “Do you want to be well?” And the man implicitly expressed his desire to be healed. “Rise, take up your mat, and walk,” Jesus said. And the man was healed as he walked towards the pool of Bethesda.

Let us reflect on some points the Gospel presents to us. First, the Gospel story depicts God’s mercy. The man was already ill for 38 years, and would like to be healed. “I have no one to put me into the pool…” said the man. Sadly, no one cared to help him go to the pool so he can simply wash himself. So when Jesus saw the man’s yearning, he told him to rise and walk. And in doing so, he was healed. Notice that the man did not ask for healing. It was the initiative of Jesus that the man was healed.

Second, the story invites us to put our trust in God. In today’s responsorial psalm, it is written: “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.” Indeed, God never forsakes his people, especially those who do his will. He always guides us, whether we are in joy or distress. However, this passage does not only pertain to what God “does” for us. It is all the more what God “is” to us: our refuge, our strength, and our help. This is trust. Trust in the God who always draws us close to him.

Now, even though God has always the initiative of making us well, our trust in him is a requisite. Jesus could have just healed the man because he wants it. However, doing so would discount the ill man’s free will. Hence, Jesus had to solicit the man’s desire before healing him. And this desire requires trust –hoping that he would be healed of his illness. Did the man trust Jesus? Certainly, the man did. Remember, he did not even know he was talking to Jesus. But still, he followed what Jesus said: “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Did the man ask if he could do that? Did the man rebuke Jesus by sarcastically saying, “Hey, you see I’m ill but you’re commanding me to walk?” No. the man simply followed what Jesus said. He simply trusted him by anchoring his desire with the will of Jesus.

Third, we have already heard that “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Jews were very strict in following the laws pertaining to Sabbath… literally. We know that God instructed man to rest on the seventh day. However, he did not say we should also cease from helping others who are in need, even on the Sabbath day! Hence, Jesus clarified this statute when he performed his miracles during Sabbath. He exemplified that it was more important to help others in need even during Sabbath than to ignore them amid their suffering. Moreover, Sabbath is a means for us to rest, not only to regain physical energy but to revitalize our relation with God through personal and communal prayer.

With the points mentioned above, we look at ourselves. How many blessings has God poured on us even though we did not ask for them? How often do we express to God our desires? Do our desires conform to his desires? Do we ask for God’s mercy and guidance or do we just rely on our will and intellect in carrying out things? How do we manifest our trust in God? How do we spend our day of rest? Do we spend it in personal and communal prayer? Or do we even become more tired on our day of rest through less important activities? When we see others drawn to Jesus and got well, do we rejoice or do we reject them secretly?

“Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” Though in many times, we fail to trust in God and in his mercy; though in many times, we cannot not rejoice when others get well, Jesus continues to initiate to us by pouring his blessings on us. He made us well, not only during Sabbath but in everyday of our life.

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