Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Change is not easy. At least for me it isn’t. And yet, we all know change can be good. I recently left the place I had worked for the past two years to venture out into somewhat new territory in my work as a counselor. This decision involved a process of discernment and of goodbyes and letting go so that I could embrace something new. I wasn’t ready last year, although I considered it, pondered it, prayed about it, and even struggled with it. It seems that when I was ready and God was ready, certain things fell into place. It was still somewhat of a risk for me, but one that I sensed God was a part of; so, although still challenging, it also brought peace. Although not nearly as significant a change as suddenly being able to walk, I share this recent experience as a way to relate to today’s gospel story.
We don’t know much about the man in this gospel passage from John (5:1-16), other than, apparently, he had been ill for thirty-eight years and was unable to get himself into the pool that was known to have healing waters. Lying there, presumably, for many, many years, along with many other ill and perhaps paralyzed people, hoping for a chance to be healed, I wonder why Jesus chose this man to ask the question of, “Do you want to be well?” It seems like such an unnecessary question with such an obvious answer, at least at first take. Of course, who wouldn’t want to be well? Who wouldn’t want to be healed? And yet, I am reminded, change can be difficult. It can be risky and is not always welcome.
I find it noteworthy that Jesus asks the question at all, “Do you want to be well?” He does not presume this. Perhaps Jesus knew that this healing would result in dramatic changes in this man’s life and wanted to know that he was ready for such change. In fact, as soon as this man is healed and able to pick up his mat and walk, as Jesus had instructed him to, he is accused of breaking the sabbath law.
There will be those who, out of their own jealousy or insecurities or fears perhaps, will not rejoice in our changing, our growth or healing. Jesus was one who brought change that many feared and resisted, eventually leading him to the cross. And yet, we know that is not the end of his story, or our story. There is the resurrection -- the ultimate change, healing, transformation.
As we prepare our hearts this Lent, I invite you to reflect, along with me, on this question of Jesus', “Do you want to be well?” In whatever way God intends, recognizing that we may be asked to carry the cross with Jesus, may we be ready for the changes that God’s healing grace and love bring.
- Eileen Miller