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March 28, Oguh SJ - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus


Tuesday, Fourth Week of Lent

March 28, 2017

Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9.12; Ps. 46; John 5:1-16

By *Fr. Enyeribe Oguh, SJ

What a question to ask a cripple who has been bedridden for thirty-eight years! Why would he be lying in that dank and dingy place near the puzzling 'pool of grace' called 'Bethesda' if not for a healing? Ironically, the Hebrew word 'Bethesda' is also translated as 'a place of disgrace' – a name that is apparently derived from the horde of invalids that camp around the area. The pond strangely has five porches and healing powers. Legend has it that at a particular time regularly an angel stirs up the pool making it fresh such that the first person to enter the water at this time gets cured of any infirmities. Hence, many infirm people gather around the pond, waiting to wade in at the golden moment.

But, Jesus' question is crucial. It invites the cripple to make a personal profession of faith. 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool,' the man replies (John 5:7). Despite the weight of his infirmity, his response radiates radical faith and abject weakness. He longs to get in the water, but lacks the strength and friends to help him get there. Yet, he does not despair. He doesn't blame his family, fiends or foes for his illness. Thirty-eight odd years have passed! Still, he forges on trusting that some day he will be cured.

Such intense belief can seem like a bizarre act of insanity to some rationalists: thirty-eight years of waiting for godot! A cold statistician on seeing the teeming throng of invalids will have given the cripple a zero chance of ever stepping into that pool given his condition. 'Better try paying or bribing someone to assist you,' a pragmatist might have advised. Probably some realists will have taunted him for believing and doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

However, to those who trust and persist, God is 'an ever-present help in time of distress' (Ps. 46: 1). His grace comes often in ways we least expect. The healing from the pool of Bethesda cures only external debilities. But when Jesus tells the cripple: 'Rise, take up your pallet, and walk' (John 5:11), he instantly receives both physical and spiritual restoration. 'See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you,' Jesus later warns him (John 5:14).

The church, like the pool of Bethesda, is a house of grace and arguably also a place of disgrace. It is the body of Christ and the source of our sanctification. Yet, the church is also composed of saints and sinners, adorable and deplorable pilgrims, who are all in need of salvation. But, like the invalids around the pool, being in or near the church is no guarantee of receiving everlasting healing (salvation). God knows our trials, faith and efforts. The Lenten period gives us the special chance to reflect and to respond in our unique ways to Jesus' invitation: 'do you want to be healed (saved)?' What an auspicious moment for an unforgettable encounter!

*Fr. Enyeribe Oguh, SJ, is a graduate student in International Law and Diplomacy at the University of Leeds in Britain. 


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