Our Refuge and Strength

1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
you have quenched our thirst for life
with the water of baptism.
Keep turning the desert of our arid lives
into a paradise of joy and peace,
that we may bear fruits
of holiness, justice and love.
Lord, hear our prayer
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading – John 5, 1-16
There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem next to the Sheep Pool there is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people, blind, lame, paralysed.
One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in that condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man, ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets down there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and started to walk around.
Now that day happened to be the Sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the Sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around.” ‘ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around”? ‘ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared, as the place was crowded.
After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, do not sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’
The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the Sabbath that the Jews began to harass Jesus.
3) Reflection
• Today’s Gospel describes Jesus who cures the paralytic who had waited 38 years for someone to help him get to the water of the pool so as to be healed! Thirty-eight years! Before this total absence of solidarity, what does Jesus do? He transgresses the law of Saturday and cures the paralytic. Today, in poor countries, assistance to sick persons is lacking, people experience the same lack of solidarity. They live in total abandonment, without help or solidarity from anyone.
• John 5, 1-2: Jesus goes to Jerusalem. On the occasion of the Jewish festival, Jesus goes to Jerusalem. There, close to the Temple was a pool with five porticos or corridors. At that time, worship in the Temple demanded much water because of the numerous animals which were sacrificed, especially during the great festivals. This is why, near the Temple there were several cisterns where rain water was gathered. Some could contain over one thousand litres. Close by, because of the abundance of water, there was a public bathing resort, where crowds of sick people gathered waiting for help or to be healed. Archeology has shown that in the same precincts of the Temple, there was a place where the Scribes taught the Law to students. On one side, the teaching of the Law of God. On the other, the abandonment of the poor. The water purified the Temple, but it did not purify the people.
• John 5, 3-4: The situation of the sick. These sick people were attracted by the water of the bathing resort. They said that an angel would disturb the water and the first one who would enter after the angel disturbed the water, would be cured. In other words, the sick people were attracted by a false hope. Healing was only for one person. Just as the lottery today. Only one person gets the prize! The majority pays and wins nothing. Precisely, in this situation of total abandonment, in the public baths, Jesus meets the sick people.
• John 5, 5-9: Jesus cures a sick man on Saturday. Very close to the place where the observance of the Law of God was taught, a paralytic had been there for 38 years, waiting for someone who would help him to go down to the water to be cured. This facts reveals the total lack of solidarity and of acceptance of the excluded! Number 38 indicated the duration of a whole generation (Dt 2, 14). It is a whole generation which does not succeed to experience solidarity, or mercy. Religion at that time, was not capable to reveal the welcoming and merciful face of God. In the face of this dramatic situation Jesus transgresses the law of Saturday and takes care of the paralytic saying: “Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around!” The man picked up his mat and started to walk around among the people.
• John 5, 10-13: Discussion of the cured man with the Jews. Immediately after, some Jews arrived and criticized the man who was carrying his sleeping mat on a Saturday. The man did not know who the one who had cured him was. He did not know Jesus. This means that Jesus passing by that place where the poor and the sick were saw that person; he perceived the dramatic situation in which he was and cured him. He does not cure him to convert him, neither so that he would believe in God. He cures him because he wants to help him. He wanted him to experience some love and solidarity through his help and loving acceptance.
• John 5, 14-16: The man meets Jesus again. Going to the Temple, in the midst of the crowds, Jesus meets the same man and tells him: “Now, you are well again, do not sin any more, or something worse may happen to you”. At that moment, people thought and said: “Sickness is a punishment from God. God is with you!” Once the man is cured, he has to keep from sinning again, so that nothing worse will happen to him! But in his naiveté, the man went to tell the Jews that Jesus had cured him. The Jews began to ask Jesus why he did those things on Saturday. In tomorrow’s Gospel we have what follows.
4) Personal questions
• Have I ever had an experience similar to that of the paralytic: to remain for some time without any help? How is the situation regarding assistance to the sick in the place where you live? Do you perceive any signs of solidarity?
• What does this teach us today?
5) Concluding Prayer
God is both refuge and strength for us,
a help always ready in trouble;
so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil,
though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,
and its waters roar and seethe,
and the mountains totter as it heaves. (Ps 46,1-3)
Thank you to the Carmelites at ocarm.org for this reflection on today’s readings.

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