There Is Only One Way Forward

– Tuesday Week 4 of Lent –

‘After this 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 Beth-zatha, 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 he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”’   [John 5:1-6]

There is a baptismal undertone to today’s reading, particularly when considering the gospel text in light of the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel. There, with an image replete with baptismal promise, Ezekiel writes of the sacred river: “wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh, and everything will live where the river goes” (Ezekiel 47:9).

Lent can be understood as an extended experience of the baptismal journey, as each of us allows God to lead us beyond the swamps we occasionally stumble into, to be washed clean to inherit the promise in and through Jesus Christ, in whom ‘everything will live’.

But it begins in paralysis. Remember that all scripture is relevant as we learn what it means to live our faith while acknowledging that there are days when some texts are more relevant than others. Today’s gospel reading is no exception. The experience of the man stuck beside the pool is a metaphor for the human experience as we encounter God. No matter how hard we try to get up (and try we must), we await God’s question, ‘do you want to be made well?’

Of course, the man in the story has one advantage over us. He knows he needs help, whereas we can be oblivious to our need. The distractions and busyness of life prevent me from noticing how stuck I am, and I will resist those opportunities where, in silence and humility, I simply reach out to God and ask him to lift me into the waters. Stop resisting today, for the only way forward is holiness (Pope Francis, Rejoice and Be Glad #31–33).


by Shane Dwyer

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