God’s Way

Scripture Reading

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.'”
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.
(John 5:1-16)

Scripture Study

5:1 a feast of the Jews: John usually identifies the religious festivals that Jesus attends, whether it is Passover (2:13), Tabernacles (7:2), or Dedication (10:22). Here the unnamed feast may be Pentecost (Weeks), which celebrates the spring harvest as well as the giving of the Torah to Israel. It is one of three pilgrim feasts that required Israelite men to travel to Jerusalem (Deut 16:16; 2 Chron 8:13) (CCC 583).

5:2 the Sheep Gate: An entryway in the northeastern wall of Jerusalem used in bringing sheep to the Temple for sacrifice (Neh 3:1). Two pools were built in the same area of the city; they were surrounded by four colonnade walkways and separated by a fifth portico running between them. One of these pools was called Bethzatha and was believed to possess healing properties.

5:5 thirty-eight years: The man’s protracted suffering is evident to Jesus (5:6). ● The duration of the man’s illness, due to some unspecified sin (5:14), recalls the duration of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness after rebelling against Yahweh at Kadesh (Num 13:25–14:11). The grueling journey from Kadesh to the threshold of Canaan lasted 38 years (Deut 2:14).

5:8 Rise … and walk: According to Jewish tradition, medical attention could be given on the Sabbath only when someone’s life was in danger. The boldness of Jesus in neglecting this convention reflects his own theological stance that giving rest to suffering souls, whether or not they are on the brink of death, fulfills the true intent of the Sabbath (CCC 2173).

5:13 Jesus had withdrawn: i.e., from the man just cured of paralysis. ● Morally (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Sermon on the Paralytic 16): Jesus disappears into the crowd to teach us to shun worldly praise. Though we are inclined to boast of our accomplishments, or at least be recognized for them, humility must turn us away from whatever acclaim might lead us to pride.

5:14 Sin no more: The Bible reveals a link between sin and suffering, with the former being the cause of the latter (Ps 107:17). This general truth, however, does not extend to every individual case (9:3).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel we find the beautiful healing of a paralyzed man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus sees the man lying on his mat, next to a pool, and asks, “Do you want to be well?” The man says yes, and Jesus replies, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately, the man is healed. Now at this point, the story really heats up. We notice something that is frequently on display in the Gospels: the resistance to the creative work of God, the attempt to find any excuse, however lame, to deny it, pretend it’s not there, to condemn it.

One would expect that everyone around the cured man would rejoice, but just the contrary: the Jewish leaders are infuriated and confounded. They see the healed man and their first response is, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”

Why are they so reactive? Why don’t they want this to be? We sinners don’t like the ways of God. We find them troubling and threatening. Why? Because they undermine the games of oppression and exclusion that we rely upon in order to boost our own egos. Let this encounter remind us that God’s ways are not our ways, and that there is one even greater than the Sabbath.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.