"Rise, take up your mat, and walk." ~John 5:8
Today's Gospel is one of the many stories in which Jesus meets a man asking to be healed. This long-suffering person has no one to help him to a pool to be cured of his illness. Jesus has pity on him, asks him the question He asks us-- Do you want to be well?--and heals him, telling him to "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
But the story continues, and the man, now cured, gets in trouble for doing as Jesus told him. We are told that the miracle which brought wholeness to this man becomes a center of conflict, not because of the good that was done, but because it did conform to the accepted norms of some people, because Jesus violated the Sabbath.
Lent gives us the opportunity to listen to and learn the lessons and challenges in this story. Obviously, other people seemed to get in the way of the now-cured man rejoicing at being cured. At first, most of us would rightfully find it hard to believe that the simple action of carrying a mat would be overwhelmed by the miracle which had just taken place. We may find it hard to believe that this could happen. But if we honestly look within each of our lives we will find times in our own past and present when we have "poured cold water" on the miracles of our world, large or small. We have failed to recognize those miracles in ourselves and others because they may have not fit into our own assumptions or expectations, our own sets of rules. Many of us may have a hard time seeing God's loving actions in our world unless they fit with how and when we want God to work.
We may also forget the condition of the suffering man before Jesus met him. He wanted to be healed, he was trying to be healed in the pool, but could find no one to help him. All he needed was someone to help him get to the pool so he, too, could be cured. It's not really a new lesson: many times God's healing love comes through the assistance of others. Many of us have experienced God's love and care in the actions of other people. Most miracles come about through the agency of other people as God's hearts and hands.
One of the primary objectives of the Spiritual Exercises and the teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola is freedom from things, attitudes and thoughts which keep us from seeing God in this world, with us, in our own lives. Ignatius' work and our University Mission call us to search for truth. For us today, this may mean to look at how our human assumptions and expectations may limit our ability to see God's loving plan, the hand of God, in our world. If our vision is clouded, or if it's the wrong day, or we're focused only on our own interests, we may be more of a hindrance than a help to God caring for us and for others. We may block the healing work of God, in our own lives, with our own ills.
As we continue Lent, let us pray that we may seek the freedom Ignatius calls us to, so we might see the world, others and ourselves, not from our own limited viewpoint, but from the perspective of God. Let us pray we may become more aware of-and receptive to--the large and small miracles and blessings God wants to give all of us, when God wants to give them, if only we are able to see with God's eyes.
We may not all need the miracle Jesus provided the man at the healing pool, but we all need healing, we all seek freedom, we can all benefit from seeing ourselves and our lives through the eyes and plan of God. Then we will also begin to see how God can use us and others to bring blessings to this world... how God can use us and others to heal others. Maybe we just need to cooperate a little with God...and just get out of the way.
Do you want to be well? A little faith will help us rise, take up our own mats, and walk, whatever day it is, wherever we are.
Have a blessed Lent.
D. Highberger, SJ
P. Stark, SJ