Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12, John 5:1-16
In preparing to share something about today’s Gospel, I chose to channel St. Ignatius’ use of “imaginative prayer” to help me find my way to something meaningful. I found a quiet place while walking along the river near campus. I first read the words of JN 5: 1-16 slowly out loud, to re-familiarize myself with the story, while paying attention to what might resonate with me. I wondered, who in this story do I most identify with, and what about this person do I find compelling? Then I read the Gospel slowly again, this time imagining a role for myself in the story.
To my surprise, in my imagination I found myself sitting near the pool described by John. I had stretched out my legs and could feel cool water, but only intermittent splashes on my feet. As I sat there I looked around the room and noticed Jesus approaching the “ill” man in the story. I couldn’t see Jesus’ face, but I knew it was him, and I strained to see some clarity in his physical presence.
As for the ill man, I thought I’d seen him before, but I wasn’t sure, as I could only see him from the backside. I tried to remember what he looked like.
There were many others, too, scurrying about in the open space before the pool, not realizing that Jesus was in their midst. Then, in the chaos I noticed the ill man ever so slowly begin to rise and with great exertion edge his way toward the same cool water that I felt on my toes. It was clearly profoundly difficult for the man to move, but he seemed to gain confidence and momentum as he neared the water. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, but everyone seemed preoccupied – and I understood, as I so often was, too.
Then it happened: the man touched the water. Then he slid into it, and his once rigid body seemed to relax and flow. I could see his face now, as it emerged from the shadows, and he seemed deeply contented. His face was wet from the pool water, as well as his sweat and fatigue.
In reflecting on this scene, I’m struck by the image of the ill man moving toward the healing water that Jesus showed him. I’m struck by the sense that I had “seen” him before, in fact several times, but that I couldn’t recall his face, and hadn’t thought to ask him his name. I so admired him, ironically enough, in his fragile, chronically ill state. He was so determined to reach the beckoning waters. I even envied how free he allowed himself to immerse in the water, and that to this refreshing pool he contributed his own sweat.
I’m left with a prayer to be able to have the eyes to see Jesus, and with him my fellow human beings, and to be able to find through them the inspiration and courage to trust Jesus’ way to the cool, healing waters.
GALE Program Manager