After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there.
Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
We are presented in today’s Gospel with an awfully pathetic figure. Most commentators shake their heads over someone who after 38 years needed to be asked if he wanted to be well. They resent the way he sold out Jesus to the authorities as quick as he could walk on his newly-healed legs and they bristle that he did so even after he was admonished not to sin again. All it takes is a quick look at his life and a cursory look at my own to see the striking similarities.
I can’t help but imagine the stages of failure and limitation in this man’s 38 years. How many decades before his drive and determination slipped away like broken Lenten promises? I can see the questioning, the resentment, the depression. After 38 long years, he forgot even how to desire to be healed; he couldn’t remember how to grateful even to the one who reached out to heal him.
Jesus “saw” and “knew” and then healed him anyway. What a merciful God we have.
—Cyril Pinchak, S.J. is a first year theology student at Regis College in Toronto. He taught previously at University of Detroit High School & Academy in Detroit, MI.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
—St. Patrick’s Breastplate
Without the life there is no growing