Today’s reading paints a vivid picture of pain and suffering and the hope of healing. We hear about a place in Jerusalem with a miraculous pool called Bethesda. In Hebrew Bethsaida means “house of mercy” but it can also mean “the flowing water”. According to some, this was connected to the largest reservoir of water in the city of Jerusalem.
It must have been a well known fact of the day that this was a place of miraculous healing and so we can imagine the great multitude of people who gathered around this pool and hoped and waited for a chance at healing. And since the angel could come and stir the water at any given time, I am sure that some of the people slept there for many days waiting for this life changing opportunity.
These days it is hard to relate to waiting for hours on end unless we are in line for the next iPhone or black Friday sales. The problem is not that people are not sick. They are very sick. People all over the world and here in our own towns are sick physically, mentally and spiritually. People are sick but the question is why don’t they line up to receive healing?
The answer is two fold. First, they don’t always know the depth of their sickness. So they don’t always know that they need comprehensive healing. Second, they don’t line up to be healed because they don’t know where to find healing. The paralytic was sick with his illness for 38 years. And for some of that time he sat and hoped and waited for someone to help him into the pool so that he could be healed of his paralysis. In this case, he thought he knew the answer to his problem. He thought he understood the source of the healing. But it was not the case because the source of the healing was not to be found in the water but in the One who commanded the angel to stir the water. The source of the healing was not the water but the One who created water itself.
St. John Chrysostom tells us that this mans patience through his sickness is a great reminder of how we should pray to God. We often pray for a minute or an hour or a day or two. We ask God to solve our problems and heal our sicknesses and answer our prayers and then we give up after our prayers aren’t answered or we think that God doesn’t hear us or we become resentful of Him. We are never guaranteed that God will answer our prayers in the way that we expect, but it is our firm belief that God will answer our prayers according to His will and that sometimes it will require patience, even great patience, to see God hand in our lives.
But it brings us back to the biggest problems that we face. We don’t ask for healing because we don’t know how sick we actually are and we don’t come directly to the source of all healing. We have amazing doctors and medicine in this country and we can reasonably help people with physical illnesses, but man is more than a body and a brain. He is meant to be the image and likeness of God. This image and likeness makes man a true human being. Our restoration as human beings happens when we are healthy in the soul. It happens when we know the source of our healing intimately. This health and regeneration is a foreshadowing of the resurrection that all believers will receive in Christ.
When we are brought into the body of Christ, the Church (which is a spiritual hospital), we go down into the pool of baptism and we are raised up healed. We as Christians are called to be continually aware of our sins which is our paralysis. We are reminded that we have often looked for answers to our spiritual problems through material things. Material things don’t heal us of our spiritual sins or paralysis, only the Master can do this. Our time and attention that is unnecessarily spent away from God can by definition be called idolatry. We invest in our looks, our health, our entertainment etc., but none of these things begins to help with our true problem. We are like the paralytic who waits for a man to put him into the pool at just the right. This becomes his focus and his desire and he doesn’t understand that God alone offers this powerful healing that he desires. And He does it in a way that we can’t imagine because He knows His people by name. He knows them intimately and desires that they should seek Him intimately.
We have the opportunity to allow Jesus Christ to heal our wounds and to remove our paralysis and make us sharers of His resurrection. After all, the resurrection of Christ was not for Him. The Lord is immortal in His divinity. The Lord took human flesh to grant resurrection to our mortal and corrupt bodies. Christ rose from the dead to raise you from the dead! He rose from the dead to grant life to His people who were in the tombs of spiritual death. He rose to give grace and life through His body, the Church, so that everyone who comes to the Church as to the pool of Bethsaida might find that this place is indeed the house of mercy.
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!