Do You Want To Be Well?

It’s a puzzling question: Do you want to be well?

In today’s Gospel, a seriously ill man had been lying near the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. His illness caused some kind of paralysis or weakness preventing him from walking. People with all kinds of infirmities were nearby, hoping to be cured in these healing waters. Jesus enters and sees this man.

“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?’” (John 5: 6)

It is a strange question. Why would someone with such a serious physical impairment, lying near the healing pools, desire anything less than healing? Why did Jesus ask?

There may have been several reasons for the question, but we must keep one thing in mind. Jesus does not ask questions for which he does not know the answers. He asks questions to help us discern the answers deep within our hearts. He asks that we might come to know.

We may presume this man had the ability to walk at one point since it did not mention he was born with this affliction. Most of us have experienced a setback or significant life event that turned our world upside down: a serious medical diagnosis, a death of a loved one, or perhaps the loss of a relationship or heartfelt dream. In the midst of that event, a sort of additional crippling may have ensued, where we shut down our hearts or stayed spiraling in a mist of confusion.

When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be well, the man poured out his heart. Perhaps he wanted to shout with tears in his eyes: “Are you kidding? Do you not see me? I have been here for 38 years wanting to be healed. I have tried to get into that pool, but I am unable to get there in time. I have done everything I can to be well.” His desperation is clear.

What did Jesus want the man to understand about himself by posing this question?

Sometimes, we become so used to our weaknesses, sin, ailments, that strangely, they are a comfort to us because they are all we know. After we have tried everything we can by our own powers and logic, we give up. Our prayers become rooted in self-pity, mulling over the “whys” of the burden instead of on acts of trust. Our prayers, like our feelings, can become jaded, and we start to falsely believe healing is not for us. We are not good enough, worthy enough, or perhaps we simply remain unnoticed by God. Deep in our hearts, we are afraid to ask for healing because we do not want to be disappointed. It would be too much to bear.

This is a deep-rooted lie that the evil one wants us to believe. Jesus saw this man. He noticed him. He knew his illness. He approaches him and engages him in a conversation.  This is our intimate Savior who desires so much for us. He is ready and wanting to heal us; he desires to meet us in the midst of our suffering.

Do you want to be well? Being well is risky!  It calls us to more, it calls us to action. Simply by expressing the desire: “I want to be well” we express our desire for true freedom, release from the bondage of the suffering and sin that bind us. Claiming we want to be well also involves trust—trust that Christ knows us, that he loves us, that he desires to heal us. Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat and walk. The old life must be left behind.

Today, let us turn away from the confusion and paralysis that threatens. Let us look up into the eyes of Christ who sees, knows, and loves us. Let us tell our beautiful Savior: “Yes, Lord, I want to be well.” When the whispers threaten to dull our trust, quietly look again and again into His eyes. Healing awaits you.

[Readings: Ez 47:1-9, 12; Jn 5:1-16]

Celina Manville

I have been in education for 20+ years, mostly working in Catholic schools serving children with special needs. Ed and I have been married over 26 years and have 3 (now) adult children - Eddie, Tony, & Kateri. Since my mom was from Brazil, and I speak fluent Portuguese, I can understand Spanish fairly well. Currently, we live in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and are parishioners at St. Luke, the Evangelist Catholic Church in Raleigh. I am most grateful to my parents for grounding me in the faith, to the Franciscan University of Steubenville for its amazing formation and education, and to Christ and His Blessed Mother for being at my side.

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