The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (5:1-15)
The resurrection is not a past event. It is true that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ has already happened, but for us, the resurrection, our resurrection, is a future event. Each and every encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ throughout our lives, is a chance to take part in the resurrection that Christ has promised us. How is this so? What do I mean?
The resurrection is not merely a physical miracle. The point of the resurrection is a complete and total resurrection. God is concerned with our physical health but even more with the health of the soul. When we are baptized, life is given to the soul. The soul is restored from a place of death and decay and renewed with life. We say that when someone is baptized he is reborn. As he chooses to dwell with Christ and to reach out and touch Christ daily in his life, he is not only reborn but refashioned, remade according to the image and likeness of God.
Today’s gospel reading from St. John is a reminder that true and complete healing and resurrection of the human person is found in Jesus Christ. We are told that a miracle happened in Jerusalem, at the pool called Bethesda. Occasionally, an angel of the Lord would trouble the waters and we are told that whoever stepped in first would be healed of his physical disease or infirmity. We see that among those who are waiting for the water to be stirred is a man who has been ill for 38 years. 38 years! Sometimes when I have the sniffles or a cold for two days I’m ready to throw in the towel, but this man was really seriously ill for a long time. He was paralyzed, perhaps from the waist down, we aren’t quite sure.
To add to his troubles, since he was paralyzed, he was quite unable to move quickly if the water happened to be stirred by the angel. So he put all of his hope in the kindness of some unknown person who would help him to get into the pool with perfect timing. Perhaps he had waited there by the miraculous pool for a long time, we don’t know. But either way, his situation was nearly impossible.
Life is quite difficult at times. Sometimes it feels impossible. And sometimes in the midst of our hardest times in life we have ideas and thoughts about what will make everything better for us. Just like this sick man who thought that having someone help him into the pool was his solution. So we say to ourselves, if only I had more money, things would be better. If only I had more health, things would be better. If only I had better friends, things would be better. We come with a multitude of man-made solutions to our most difficult problems in life, but the words of the gospel bring our attention to only one holistic solution. Most often this solution is right in front of our faces but we don’t have the spiritual eyes and the faith to see it. The solution to all of the impossible difficulties of life is not to find a better human answer but to turn your eyes to the One who does what is beyond comprehension, to the master Jesus Christ. He will offer you something far greater than you can imagine.
How do we turn to Christ? As Christians, we turn by repenting and acknowledging our faults and sins. Like the paralytic, we often look for others to blame when our situation doesn’t get better, but the real issue was something so close to him that he couldn’t see it. His paralysis itself was the problem. His limitations and his sickness defined him. When we repent and acknowledge our sins, we are no longer defined by them, instead of shouldering the oppressive weight of these sins, we give them over to Christ who gladly carries them and then He defines us by His definition, as children of the Most High, according to His grace and love for us, His children.
We can also turn to Him when we open the pages of Holy Scripture and especially the gospels. In those blessed pages we hear directly from the Lord Himself. How many of us are starving for the word of God in our lives? We gorge ourselves on the world, but we starve without the Lord. We fill ourselves with entertainment and fiction and stories and news/propaganda, but all of this is a distortion of reality because Christ alone is truth. That is why the gospel sits alone on the altar covered in gold (plating).
We turn to the Lord when we put God first in our lives. When we start our week with the joyous celebration of the liturgy. Every week this is a choice we must make for the rest of our lives. Do we set aside the greater for the lesser? Do we set aside what is most important for what is less important? Well that is precisely what would happen if we got lazy or found ways to start our week that didn’t involve attending the liturgy. But as children of God we offer the first portion of the week, of our time and energy and resources to the Lord and we ask Him to take this small offering of ours and to bless and multiply it according to His will.
We turn to Him when we receive His blessed body and pure blood in holy communion. He literally feeds us His body and blood. He promises us that when we partake of Him, He will raise us up at the last day, and in fact, we often experience internal resurrection of our hearts and minds when we come and partake of the eucharist.
We turn to Him when we study the saints and emulate their lives and we emulate their lives when we make it our duty to live the commandments and be molded by them, especially the commandments to love God and love our neighbors.
My dear ones, for the man or woman or child who wants to be completely healed and resurrected, the path is open and the Lord sees us. Only choose carefully how you will answer His question, “Do you want to be healed?” Glory be to God forever AMEN.