This Lent, answer Jesus’ question: ‘Do you want to be well?’
A Reflection for the Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Find today’s readings here.
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?” (Jn 5:6)
“Do you want to be well?” It seems like a strange question to ask a sick person. No one would ask a woman suffering with cancer if she wants it to go into remission or not. Yet this is the question Jesus puts before us in today’s Gospel. A man has been ill for 38 years, and there is no one in his life who is willing to carry him into the healing waters of the Bethesda pool. His answer to Jesus’ question is not a simple “yes” but instead a description of the obstacles that are keeping him from being healed. Jesus tells him to “rise, take up your mat, and walk,” and that’s what the man does.
Do we want to be well? When it comes to cancer, the answer is obvious. But there are other afflictions we may struggle with that prevent us from responding with a simple yes. For someone in the throes of addiction or struggling with an eating disorder, the answer may at times echo St. Augustine: Yes, but not yet. We are creatures of habit, and an illness you know can be less scary that a road of recovery that you don’t.
And then of course there is the affliction we call sin, those self-inflicted wounds that keep us from enjoying the abundant life God so wants for us. Do we want to be holy? The answer should be a simple yes, but how often do we respond to that question with rationalizations? I know I shouldn’t gossip—but why does that person have to be so obnoxious? I know I should pray more—but work is really stressful right now. I know I should give more to the poor—but hey, I work at a nonprofit! (I know this last one quite well.)
Lent is a time where we focus in a special way on that call to wholeness and holiness. What are the things in my life that are keeping me from being whole, loving and generous that I need to give up? The answer, I’m afraid, is probably not as easy as “chocolate” or “Netflix.” Those can be perfectly fine Lenten sacrifices, but only insofar as they remind us to ponder that fundamental question from Jesus: Do you want to be well?