Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
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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, bling, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years… Jesus 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.
I have no one to help me. Excuse me for saying this, but the fact that no one wanted to help this sick man can only mean one thing. He must have been a jerk.
Think about it. If no one wanted to help him, its because no one wanted to touch him. And if no one wanted to touch him, then it’s because he must have been a notorious sinner.
A few years ago, I went to visit an elderly woman who was critically ill in the hospital. She was scheduled to have major surgery in a couple of days and requested a priest. I arrived to her room a little later than she had expected, and she was not very happy about it. “What the hell took you so long?”, she said. “I’ve been waiting here for hours.” I felt like saying to her, “Where else would you have gone?”, but I didn’t. Instead, I told her the weekends are very busy for priests. She responded with her middle finger, and then proceeded to tell me how upset she was at the Church and with God. I was about to let her be, but then I asked her a very simple question: “Did you call for a priest?”
“Do you want to be well?” At first, the question may seem a bit out of place, almost ridiculous. Well, it’s not, and most people would be surprised at the number of people who would prefer to complain rather than to live. So the question, believe it or not, is a very good question. It’s a cold shower for those who are bathing in their own self-loathing and/or self-pity.
We can live without legs, but we cannot live without love.
Man can live without affordable healthcare. But he cannot live without help. It’s one thing to be crippled and no one able to cure you. It’s another thing to be surrounded by people and no one willing to help you. This is hell.
The man who was ill for thirty-eight years had no one to help him. He must not have been a very likeable person. Where were his friends? Where were his parents? Where were his siblings? Did they all abandoned him? Most likely. But there was one who would refuse to abandon him, even if it meant breaking the Sabbath.
This true story reminds me of one of the most moving chapters in the novel “Les Miserables.“
A good woman was passing by and saw a man sleeping on a stone.
She approached the man and said, “Why don’t you go to the inn?”
“I have knocked on every door”, said the man.
“Well, what happened?”
“Everyone has driven me away!”
The good woman touched the man’s arm and pointed out to him a little low house beside the bishop’s palace.
“You have knocked at every door?” she asked.
Have you knocked at that one there?”
“Come in!”, said the Bishop.
No one wanted to help this helpless man.
No one wanted to help this crippled man.
Both were bathing in self-pity and self-loathing.
I have no one willing to help. Yes. This is true, but…Did you ever think that there may be a “good” reason for it?
Lent is all about doing a self examination and being (sort of) your worst enemy. It’s about looking at yourself in the mirror and being honest with the person standing there, telling yourself what no one else will tell you, except maybe your worst enemy. St. Augustine understood this well when he said in his Confessions: “Just as fawning friends pervert us, so also quarrelsome enemies often correct us.”
Kids are constantly telling their parents that they have no friends. This may be true. But there may be a “very good” reason for it. So parents need to teach their kids how to examine their consciences and to see their faults, not to give them a black eye but an honest eye; not to crush them, but to help them, for we all know it is easier to ignore someone and something than to correct someone or something.
Since no one was willing to help the sick man be healed, the Lord helped him, but then he warned him, “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
Take a good look at yourself. Be tough one yourself so that others will be kind to you. (0)