Today at Mass we heard this Gospel passage:
Gospel: Jn 5:1-16
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.
Father’s homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn’t necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.
Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same–even if things aren’t great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.
Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: “Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” (I’m not much of a “banner” person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)
Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.
So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It’s about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that’s what those little cardboard “rice bowls” are all about). It’s about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.