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The Everyday Prayer


 
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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome


Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 5, 1-3.5-16

After this there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now in Jerusalem next to the Sheep Pool there is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five porticos;

and under these were crowds of sick people, blind, lame, paralysed.

One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years,

and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in that condition for a long time, he said, 'Do you want to be well again?'

'Sir,' replied the sick man, 'I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets down there before me.'

Jesus said, 'Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around.'

The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and started to walk around. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath,

so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, 'It is the Sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.'

He replied, 'But the man who cured me told me, "Pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around." '

They asked, 'Who is the man who said to you, "Pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around"? '

The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared, as the place was crowded.

After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, 'Now you are well again, do not sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.'

The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him.

It was because he did things like this on the Sabbath that the Jews began to harass Jesus.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The evangelist John, who will guide our steps over the next few days, leads us to a pool in Jerusalem called Bethesda (House of Mercy). It was considered to be a sacred and miraculous place. In fact, along its edges gathered many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. Following a popular tradition, probably related to the worship of a pagan god of healing, all these people gathered around the pool and waited for an angel to stir up the water, convinced that the first person to enter the water would be healed. Beyond this popular tradition of pagan origin, the pool can be seen as an image of the Church, the true house of mercy. Christian tradition has often imagined the church, or rather, the community of believers, as a fountain of living water, which is offered to everyone without any distinction. There are several beautiful icons of the Eastern tradition that depict Mary at the centre of a fountain, quenching the thirst of the poor and weak. And Blessed John XXIII loved to compare the Church to the village fountain where everyone comes to quench his or her thirst. Our communities should be inspired by the example of this pool with five porticoes. It is not a magical place. There always needs to be an angel who intervenes. But the angel not an abstract or random spirit: it is Jesus himself. This is what happens in the story told by the evangelist. There was a sick man by the edge of the pool. As he passes by, Jesus sees the man and asks about his condition. This is already a lesson about how to be close to those who suffer and need help. Jesus finds out that the man has been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. Today we would call him a chronic invalid, revealing our resignation towards those we say have no hope of being healed. The man was sitting there, waiting for someone, indeed, an angel, to help him. In truth, he has lost all hope, as can be seen in the words he speaks to Jesus. But when he sees Jesus, who stops and asks, “Do you want to be healed?” hope is rekindled in his heart. Jesus may have been the first person who stopped and spoke to him. At the very least, the man was no longer abandoned in his loneliness. It is from this new closeness - completely unexpected and freely given - that hope is reborn in that paralyzed man. Yes, the love that makes people interested in others also opens the hearts of those it touches. And the sick man confides in his unexpected friend, telling him of the profound bitterness of so many years of disappointment. When people are alone it is difficult, if not impossible, to heal. And how many people are left alone today in their moment of greatest weakness! Jesus is the true angel who heals that man of his sickness. He tells him: Stand up, take your mat and walk. And so it happens. And there is a second encounter. The man’s heart also needed to be healed. When he met him a second time, Jesus says, See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more. We need to meet Jesus again and again in order to be healed to the depths of our hearts. Each one of us should imagine him or herself at the edge of the pool, listening to Jesus speak those same words to us, so that we will stand up from the paralysis of our selfishness and become in turn angels for those who need help and comfort.


04/01/2014
Memory of the Mother of the Lord


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27
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