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Lent Retreat – Week 4, Tuesday

Lent Retreat – Week 4, Tuesday

Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; Ps. 45; John 5:1-3, 5-16

‘Do you want to be well again?’ This is the question that Jesus asks the sick man at the Sheep Pool in today’s Gospel. We might think at first that the answer to this question is fairly obvious – ‘yes, of course.’ So it is slightly surprising that the sick man in today’s Gospel doesn’t answer yes. Instead the man makes an excuse: no one is there to put him into the pool. At this point, especially if you know the rest of the story, it’s tempting to be rather judgmental of this man. Maybe he was just wallowing in self-pity, perhaps he was frightened of the responsibilities health might bring, or perhaps he was just lazy, one of the undeserving poor. I think it would be wrong to come to such conclusions too quickly. Jesus was not averse to telling people what he thought, yet he didn’t give this man a ticking off. Instead he healed him.

The story of this sick man can teach us some valuable lessons. The man is aware that he couldn’t come to health just by his own efforts. In a spiritual sense, this is true for all of us. To live the fullness of life which God intends for us is not possible by our own means – it is only possible through Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus doesn’t wait patiently on the side lines waiting for us to invoke His name. He can come into our lives uninvited, healing us even before we have the chance to ask. Whatever our background, whatever sins we have committed, Christ gives us sufficient help to make us holy. But even in a state of holiness, we can still be tempted to sin. The warning Jesus gives to the man when He sees him later on in the Temple suggests this. We still have to cooperate with Him. But once Christ has sanctified us our dignity is raised: we do not become less free, but more free.

Robert Verrill OP

fr Robert Verrill  lives in the Dominican Priory in Cambridge, where he works at the University chaplaincy while completing a Doctorate at Baylor University, Texas.
robert.verrill@english.op.org