Tuesday of the Fourth Week

 A ninteenth century sketch of the Pool at Bethesda, showing the pool and some buildings around it.

Daily Offering

Lord, I offer my work today. May it help me come closer to you.    Stephen Noon SJ

Entering into prayer

Choose a way to enter into prayer from earlier in Lent or any method that you prefer.

Today's Scripture (John 5:1-3, 5-16)
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 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 any more, 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.

Food for thought

The name Bethesda is traditionally interpreted to mean “house of mercy”, but a reference to this pool in the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests it probably means “place of two reservoirs.” Recent excavations revealed two pools side-by-side, with five porticoes along their sides and between them. One pool was a ritual bath for the many Jews who came to Jerusalem for feasts and who needed to ritually bathe to purify themselves in order to be able to enter the inner precincts of the Temple. This pool was periodically filled by a flow of water from the other pool, which may account for the water being “stirred up.” Some believed that the first person into the pool after its waters were stirred would be healed. Many ill, blind, lame and crippled people came to the porticoes in the hope of healing. Their infirmities made it difficult for them to work and support themselves. They were reduced to begging from pilgrims.

Imagine Jesus coming to this place near the temple and he meets people with chronic illness, the ones that the temple did not want. The gospel does not tell us why he came to the pool, we’re simply told that Jesus saw a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years lying there. That’s is a long time to be incapacitated – virtually a lifetime in terms of life expectancy at that time. The man was one of a “large number” of afflicted lying there, but Jesus focuses on him. Jesus knew he had been ill for a long time. When he saw him and knew his condition he said to him, “Do you want to be well again?”

You might say “what an odd question! Of course those who are ill want to get well, don’t they?” But Jesus asked the question knowing he had been ill for a long time. Had the man lived with his condition for so long that it had become part of his who he was, and a life free from his infirmity almost inconceivable? Was a different life, with the adjustments it entailed, a daunting prospect?

Suggestions for prayer

There is a sense in which Jesus asks every one of us, Do you want to be well? Do I want to be freed of the sins and addictions that I have accommodated for so long that they are now part of my makeup? Do I want to leave my old self behind and become a new person?

How are you going to respond today?

For Jesus, nobody is unchangeable. He has great respect for each of us and believes we can always grow in freedom and in faith. Sometimes we prefer to remain as we are rather than change for the better. We fear what the change will bring, or we have grown comfortable with our “illness.” Imagine Jesus asking you, right now, “Do you want to be well?” What is your response?

Image for the day

 A ninteenth century sketch of the Pool at Bethesda, showing the pool and some buildings around it.

  • What do you see in this image?

  • How does this story help you reflect on your need for, or experience of, healing?

Examen (review of prayer)

At the end of your prayer you can look back and ask: Does it have something to say to you?

How does it make you feel? Imagine how God might reply.

Conversation: When you come towards the end of your time of prayer, talk to God about what has come up for you. End with a formal prayer, such as the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father.

Going Deeper

The healing of Bartimaeus 

The woman with a haemorrhage