13 March
Jn 5:1-16

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 Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 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 anymore, 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.

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him.  This seems an odd question when you consider that the man had been waiting for thirty-eight years to be healed.  But, of course, you often have compelling reasons for clinging to your sicknesses.  You will no longer have people to take you around – do you want to be healed?  You will no longer have sympathy from everyone – do you want to be healed?  You will have to work, and you are not used to it – do you want to be healed? 

He wanted to be healed.  Then Jesus said, “Stand up!”  This too seems odd at first sight.  Jesus was asking him to do the very thing he could not do.

Then the miracle happened: the man went to stand up.  He overcame the habits – physical and mental – of more than half a lifetime.  His mind and will said, “Stand!”   That was an amazing achievement.  Then, when he went to stand up, he found that he could.  The miracle was not worked ‘on’ him, it was worked ‘in’ him.  This is not to say that it was just mind over matter.  It was the presence of Jesus, but that presence in this case required the full conscious presence of the paralysed man. 

What does it say to us?  The very thing we can't do is sometimes the only thing worth doing. 

In reference to this gospel passage Johann Tauler (1300 – 1361) said: “If we could only wait for the Lord, we would have the power and strength to pick up and carry the thing that was carrying us before.”  It is a wonderfully suggestive phrase.  The man had been lying on his bed, being carried around by other people; but now, healed by the Lord, he picks up the same bed and puts it on his shoulder.  Many things carry us along: addictions, fixations, obsessions... many false kinds of passivity.  We are prostrate in many ways and excessively dependent on other people.  If only we could be ‘unlocked’ at the root of our being, we would walk free.  We would still have to carry the pain and the consequences of an addiction, or the like; but exactly so: we would be carrying it.  We would probably win no races and no dancing competitions.   But it would be the most beautiful movement in the world. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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