When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
Being Sick Stinks
There are so many ways we can be sick — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. We even use the word to refer to being fed up with something. Most people do not wish to or like to be sick. As a working mother, I am often heard saying that old cliche, “I don’t have time to be sick.”
As a “germaphobe”, I take my dislike for being ‘out of commission’ with any type of ailment to a whole new level. Some, primarily my dear hubby, have even implied my fear teeters on neurotic. I can't really argue that. The irony is, for a very long period of my life, I would have welcomed illness because it gave me a valid excuse to give into my insecurities and fears. I would have happily taken a day or two on the couch with my tissues, soup and favorite book, instead of facing the world. Sick was sometimes convenient and sometimes comforting because nothing was expected of me in that condition.
When We Are Ready to be Well
It would seem obvious that the man in today’s Gospel did not wish to remain unwell, if he was laying so close to this place that promised him healing. Though, he does seem to have a few excuses as why he hasn’t taken advantage of this cure for the last 38 years. As I contemplated why he had not simply asked another to person to help him or devised a way to get in a better position for receiving the healing, I thought of that fearful time in my life. That time when change seemed almost as overwhelming and scary as remaining in my current condition. I remembered how my pride prevented me from reaching out to anyone for help, not wanting to blow my ‘I have it altogether’ image.
How hard it can be to enlist another person’s assistance, especially when it means admitting — out loud — that you cannot help yourself. How frightening this step can be, especially when you wonder if you’ll be turned down or disappointed by that person after you have muster the strength to ask. Will they, like Jesus, be willing to risk everything, to be God’s instrument of saving grace?
When I finally reached the point I knew it was time to be well. I also knew it was time to turn to Jesus. I returned tothe Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (both in Mass and inAdoration). As the days passed, I began to feel nudge of the Spirit in my heart asking me, “Do you want to be well?” Answering “yes”, had to first came with the recognition that the healing was coming from Him (in whatever form He choose to send it) and made it possible to finally accept it.
“Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.”
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017
First Appeared on April 1, 2014 on CatholicLane.com
God's Healing Waters
Do you ever feel like you are just waiting for someone to lift you into God’s healing waters? What if once cleansed of your ailment, you could return again and again for further assurance of healing, a spiritual refresher?
In this Gospel reading from John, we read about a man crippled for over 38 years. He has long been waiting to experience the healing power of God. This Gospel not only challenged me to consider the remarkable healing power of Christ but also His compassion and mercy. The Gospel of John, Chapter 5 begins: 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.”
Dependence On What
After reflecting on this conversation between the man and Jesus, it occurred to me that there are aspects of my finances dependent on my employer, my health reliant on my doctor and my spiritual well-being conditional on my priest; ultimately the most important dependency is on Jesus. It is not that my faith in Jesus negates the need for the others: each is an integral part in attaining that particular well-being I desire. With Jesus, as John’s Gospel illustrates, so much more is possible, including the miraculous:Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk. Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
There is Always More with Jesus
At first, today’s Gospel appears to be all about the physical. However, as so often happens when we encounter Christ, there is always more. We see Jesus’ desire for a deeper connection with us. 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.” We see this same occurrence with the man lowered by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus. We see again and again how in healing physical maladies, Jesus demonstrates the authority given to him by God. It is this same power that allows him to forgive sins.
A Personal Analogy
For the last year, I have been battling Atopic Dermatitis aka eczema on my hands. Eczema is an incurable and chronic ailment. I feel so defeated with those words – incurable and chronic. There are days when the itch or pain is almost more than I can bear. In those moments, I am reminded of the long suffering people seeking Jesus’ healing in the Gospels. Jesus uses their suffering and healing to teach those healed as well as those witnessing the healing, I prayed for an insight into my current condition. It was no coincidence that I would have today’s readings to ponder.
Comparing Reconciliation and Chronic Illness
There are remarkable similarities between the eczema on my hands and the sin on my soul. Both need healing. For my hands there are remedies such as medicines and creams; for the soul there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I saw other connections:
I often feel embarrassed and ashamed of my hands and want to hide them, much like being caught in the shame or guilt of sin and wanting to hide from God. Covering up (either my illness or my sins) does no good in bringing about healing. My external healing means exposing the skin to the healing properties of the sun, transforms them from broken and useless to whole again. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the healing grace of the Son, radically transforms my soul, healing my spiritual brokenness, making me whole again.
Broken Skin, Broken Relationships
The hardest part of losing full use of my hands has been communicating with my daughter. She is profoundly deaf and our family uses American Sign Language to communicate. Since my hands started to bother me last June, I have sometimes felt as if I trying to talk with laryngitis. I am acutely aware that I don’t speak to my daughter as often as I should or as thoroughly due to this.
I lament that my disease has, at times, robbed me of the close relationship my daughter and I are privileged to enjoy. To be fully healed like the man waiting to be lifted into the healing waters, I must be willing to accept the love and mercy of Christ. When I avoid the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my communication with him is strained, like trying to sign with crippled hands or speak with no voice. This great authority given to the Son of God is the same bestowed upon our priests through Jesus. We don’t have to wait to receive this healing. While our desire may be physical health, Christ desires so much more for us.
Christ is asking you right now, “Do you want to be well?”
#HowWeLent Challenge (CWBN Blog Hop)
There are 3 pillars of Lent. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
For this Lent, I decided to set 2 goals for each pillar. Read: Lenten Overachiever
Plans are Meant to be Altered
All over social media, those still left after the Lenten Exodus, people are confessing to their inability to keep their Lenten promises. According to Facebook and Twitter, there has been lots of coffee drunk, chocolate eaten, swears said, and prayer time skipped. The hashtag #LentenFail started showing up just a day into the liturgical season. The #LentFail numbers grew again after bacon bits, chicken broth and unintentional "Oh no, I totally forgot it was Lent" hamburger consumption on the first Friday of Lent.
Here is the good news. YOU Cannot Fail Lent. It is not a test. Lent is a time of looking at our lives and trying new ways to grow closer to Christ. Through prayer, fasting and charity, these forty days can be used to challenge our current choices and behaviors, and try on new ones. We may choose to pray more often or read the scriptures daily. If we only pray twice all week, when we normally pray only once - we have ended ahead! Perhaps you are fasting, like me from television. So you set the goal to only watch on Sundays, yet if you are only able to watch one day less, you have accomplished something during this Lent.
The Overachiever's Update
The WINE Lenten Book club featuring Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ's Passion through the Eyes of Women, has been remarkable. The interaction on the WINE website and the Facebook group have been so inspiring; what an incredible blessing to journey with so many faithful women. No one has it all figured out. It has been encouraging to read how following Christ can take on so many forms and is filled with ups and downs. Times when we can feel so close to Jesus we call him our friend and others when we wonder if we are just chasing a dream of what we hope and not what really is (or is not). It is the hope though, and those beautiful moments when God reveals himself to us, that keep us searching and praying.
I have also absolutely loved the #LentenWalk Photo Challenge on Instagram. View here!
The other goal for Lent was reading the Gospel of John and meeting weekly at my parish to discuss it. I went faithfully for the first few weeks but have to admit the last two weeks I've given priority to home obligations. We have one week left of Lent, and I do plan to go this week as it is Holy Week. The group barely made it through even half of the Gospel but it is 10 chapters more than we had studied before. The biggest gain for me personally was falling in love all over again with John 4 - The Woman at the Well.
Lent Episode featuring The Woman at the Well: Regrets
And the Rest ...
The television fast has been part of my Lenten practice for over 10 years. Each year, I manage to avoid watching Monday through Saturday (afternoon) for the enter 40+ days. This year has been no exception. The work productivity alone is worth continuing this practice beyond Lent. The extra time to read, pray and study has me once again hoping to take the grace of seeing I can live without TV into my Easter season. The hitch - it is Red Sox season!
The attempt to fast from certain foods to determine the cause of my eczema flare went well - in that I fasting for a few weeks than caved and ate eggs, peanut butter and even a little gluten, then quickly realized I am indeed sensitive to all of them. For my health and well-being I have not choice but to bring this fast beyond Lent. I just pray I will have the grace to stay strong. You would think just the uncomfortable itch would be incentive enough.
Since the Scriptures advice that we do our giving in private so that our reward will be in Heaven, I will refrain from sharing too much on this topic. I will say that we have been fairly successful in only dining out on Sundays, and curbing most of our extra spending. We've not been as sacrificial as we could (or should). Definitely identified some areas of weakness and lack of discipline in our spending. These last two years working on managing our finances have been some of the most difficult and yet most rewarding. The greatest joy is always when you have made good choices and have put yourself in a place to offer help to others.
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras