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Monday, March 19, 2012

Sparkles of Light (Jn 5:1-16)


20 March 2012, Tuesday of 4th Week of Lent

 BUBBLES AND CONTROVERSY

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.
John 5:1-16

            The Gospel for today is one of Jesus’ healing miracle stories in John.  And this time it is someone who has been ill for 38 years.  However it is quiet odd to note that the person, who has been ill there for a long time, had never been place into the pool.  Historically speaking, during those times, such pools really existed.  And the Jews believe that when the water is troubled -- meaning some bubbles come out which signifies that it may have been a spring -- there would be healing that would happen.  It is like some of our pilgrim places where we believe that healing can take place by going there or bathe into the water.  Hence, the ill man wasn’t able to go to the pool because perhaps it takes timing to wait and go into the pool until the bubbles will come.  And sadly also it was hard for the man because no one brings him there when it happens.

            But the ill man’s patience paid off.  Jesus came along and this time the ill man didn’t ask for healing from Jesus, which is the usual structure of a healing story, but instead Jesus himself initiated by asking “Do you want to be well?” and commands the ill man "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."  And immediately the man became well.  Eventhough the man is not a believer of Jesus and yet he has been praying so hard for healing to happen, Jesus knew what is in his heart.  Hence, Jesus granted his desire even he does not know who Jesus is.  Some scholars read this Gospel passage as something ecumenical, that the power of God is ever power and encompassing.  Yet for us Christians it only shows that God answers our deepest prayers and knows our needs.  However as we know not all prayers are answered.  That is why the line, “Do you want to be well,” gives us a very important clue how God answers our prayers.  God answers our prayers when we truly desire for it and when it is in tune with the desire of God.

            Since the Gospel of John is full of symbolism and meaning, there is another part of the story.  Jesus performed the healing during Sabbath.  And Sabbath for the pious Jews was a holy day and no such work is allowed – like picking grains or cleaning the house, not even performing miracles and healings.  But with an outsider’s point of view, we understand that Jesus did not violate any law because he was addressing a need.  The law of Jesus is the law of love.  Hence whatever that entails love, we must follow it.  But in John this is not emphasized.  What is emphasized is that Jesus was putting himself into trouble.  This brought controversy and conflict because Jesus is against the Jewish authority.  And for us Catholics during this season of Lent, it brings about the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus.  Why must he get into trouble that the Jewish authorities persecute him?  Did he done something wrong?

            The answer is a mystery since we can’t capture and contain this love of God for us that is manifested through the life and work of Jesus.  Yet these are the questions that we should ask ourselves as we come close to Holy Week.  And also feel the feelings of confusion and shame that is being evoked from such stories.  And hopefully through these, we can find our own personal answers as we journey with Jesus through his passion and death.  May we realize that Jesus humbled himself and faced all these pain and suffering for us because he loves us.                               

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