Gospel Reflection – John 5:1-16
This Tuesday’s Gospel talks about one of the many times that Jesus is scolded for healing a man on the Sabbath. Though that’s not the angle on this story I’m going to talk about.
If you haven’t already caught on by now, you should really pick up your Bible already, and read over John 5:1-16 before continuing.
Here we have a man with some unknown illness, (presumably he is unable to walk or at least ill enough to have difficulty moving around), hoping to get into the “Bethzatha” pool. This guy isn’t just looking for a nice dip in the pool, though. This particular pool was believed to have healing properties, so you can imagine why he would want in—he had been ill for 38 years. Now 38 years is significant, not just because it shows that this guy has been ill for a long time, but because it recalls the 38 years that Moses and the Israelites spent in the desert. As is often forgotten, the exodus from Egypt to the promised land actually only took 2 years, not 40. Let me recap what happened before you shout “heresy” on me. After two years of travel from Egypt to the land of Canaan (the promised land) the people discovered Canaan was occupied, and did not believe that God would give them the power to conquer the Canaanites. They did not trust God. So they were condemned to spend an additional 38 years in the desert, before they could return and hopefully by this point be able to trust God enough to enter into the promised land. So they spent 40 years total in the desert before they actually entered.
Now in the Gospel, a man who has been ill for 38 years is hoping to be healed by entering this pool. But he says that he cannot ever get into the water, because every time he tries, someone steps in ahead of him. This man was trying to enter into this pool, like the Israelites tried to enter into the promised land: by his own power. For 38 years he has wandered the spiritual desert, hoping to be healed, but was unable to rely upon God. He’s stuck right in front of the pool, within reach of being healed, but he cannot cross that threshold by his own efforts. He is healed only when Jesus acts in his life. Through the words of Jesus, that is, by God’s action, he is healed; not by his own power.
It can be really hard to truly trust God—to believe that God wants to work wonders in our lives and transform us! Perhaps during this Lenten season you have felt the push: you think God may be asking you to take the next step, to do something that you are afraid to do, to step out of your comfort zone. Maybe you’ve been thinking you should be doing something more to help out in the parish. Maybe you’ve been putting off talking to someone you’ve been angry with. Maybe you’ve wanted to give more money to the poor but you’re afraid you can’t afford it. Maybe you’ve been afraid to confess a particular sin because you’re afraid what the priest might think of you. Whatever it may be, take a leap! Trust that God will help you conquer the Canaanites! Even if you think you can’t do it, that’s fine. That’s precisely what God may be telling you: you can’t. BUT GOD CAN! Take whatever is on your heart to prayer and beg the Lord to help you. Ask Him! That’s what He wants! Beg him to free you from your 38 years in the desert. You could be standing now at the threshold of change in your life, of doing God’s will, but God is the only one who has the power to get you there. Don’t try to do it on your own or you’ll forever be stuck in the desert. Maybe now is the time to hand it over to God, and say, “Jesus, I trust in you”.