24 March, Tuesday – What a dumb question!

24 March 2020

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Ezekiel 47:1-9,12

The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross.

He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river.

He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’

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John 5:1-3,5-16

There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move. 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 this 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 there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.

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 mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to 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 persecute Jesus.

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“Do you want to be well?”

I was in a pensive and reflective mood as I sat quietly by myself in front of Our Blessed Mother’s statue at the Cathedral one morning. For those of you familiar with the place, the statue stands amidst a shallow pool of water surrounding it. A disturbance in the water catches my eye. A beetle (a rather large one actually), had fallen in and was struggling for its life. As I stepped towards it to try to rescue it, something happens, the beetle despite its size, suddenly started walking on the water. It was able to move about with its feet on the surface of the water and eventually got itself to safety. Hmm… it seems that God is not the only one able to walk on water.

Jesus asked the blind man in the Gospel, “Do you want to be well?” Kind of a dumb question, right? (No offence, Lord), given that Jesus knew that he had been ill for a long time – 38 years. That’s a long time. Yet, the crippled man was never able to make it into the pool of Bethesda whenever it was stirred. The crippled man is a representation of humanity – our brokenness, our helplessness, our longing to be whole again. And yet, the crippled also embodied the brokenness of humanity in many other ways —  our ineptitude to save ourselves (38 years and he was not able to find a way to reach the pool), our infidelity (by betraying Jesus to the Pharisees in performing the miracle on a Sabbath), our ingratitude (there was no mention of him thanking Jesus for healing him), unrepentant(he was seemingly unresponsive to Jesus’ rebuke to turn away from his sinful ways). Yes – the cripple was in a really sorry state. Much like humanity. Much like us.

I did a bit of background reading on this passage and it seems that back in the day, the stirring of the water in the pool was done by none other than the Holy Spirit himself. Hence, the point is made that it is only God himself, through His Holy Spirit, that can bring about our healing, restoration and renewal. Not man’s piety nor his dutiful performance of religious rituals nor his wealth, nor his ‘connections’ nor his ‘science’.

You see, God needed to ask the question, “Do you want to be well?”, of all of us. Why? Because He has promised us freedom of our wills. God is faithful to all his promises. He promised we could have our free will and that He would respect that (I do wonder if He ever regretted this). The second reason for asking is because He knows a “yes” from us needs to come with a conscious commitment to allow God to do His work of healing and restoration in us. Often, such healing will come with a willingness on our part to let go, to surrender our will, to trust in Him no matter how demanding, painful and senseless that path can often appear to be, to change from our sinful ways and to die to self, to pride, to unforgiveness, to self-righteousness. Hence, maybe the question Jesus asked was not really that dumb after all? As the saying goes — be careful what you ask for – you might just get it.

In closing, let me get back to the saga of the beetle. You see, a few things needed to happen for it to be saved. Firstly, it needed to stop struggling, which would then allow the water molecules to re-form themselves and to create sufficient surface-tension to hold the weight of the beetle and allow it to ‘walk’. Just as we do. Secondly, it needed to be at the right place at the right time – in this instance, falling not into just any old pool of water but the pool that surrounds Our Blessed Mother’s statue – I can almost hear our dearest Mother, with her infinite love for all of God’s creatures, beetles included, saying “no beetle is ever going to drown – and no child of mine that clings to me and my Son, will ever be lost — not in my pool, not on my watch.”.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. The pools of our poor lives are stagnant and fester with sin, hurt, regrets, sorrows. We are all wounded and broken. We have been waiting by the cesspool of our souls for your grace to cleanse and heal and restore us once again to the wholeness that you created us to be. Not because you have abandoned us, but because we have turned away from you.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you. For never abandoning us, for never forsaking us despite the countless times we have chosen foolishness, arrogance, pride and sin instead of your loving will for us.

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