“Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” (John 5:13-14)
To the man Jesus healed by the pool of Bethzatha, he said: “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” In a similar vein, to those who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices, he said: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered thus? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish…” (Luke 13:2-5).
As much as God is not interested in the death of the sinner, the truth is that there is something about sin itself that predisposes us to danger. As we see in the story of the prodigal son, sin takes us away from the Father’s house; it removes us from the protective embrace of God. We soon find ourselves at the mercy of the devil and his agents like the son who hired himself to strangers who wouldn’t even give him food to eat.
Jesus warned the man who had been cured to avoid sin so that nothing worse would happen to him. What else could be worse than suffering for thirty-eight years? What else could be worse than spending half of your lifespan in pain, discomfort, and misery? What could be worse than living with utter bitterness? This is exactly what sin does to us. The book of Proverbs says: “Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (Proverbs 6:27-28).
Jesus asked the man a simple question, “Do you want to be healed?” This is a very important question. It is a question that Jesus is also addressing to us: “Do you want to come out of that life of unnecessary pain and sorrow?” As terrible as sin is, there comes a time we become so used to sin that we begin to enjoy that which should ordinarily give us sleepless nights. We reach a point when we assume it is impossible to live differently.
Even though this man did not answer Jesus directly, his response was “Yes.” He told Jesus how he had often tried without success to get into the water once it is stirred. For thirty-eight years the man remained there “hoping against hope” that one day, he would enter the pool before anyone else. You may have been trying unsuccessfully to overcome the same sin. Don’t give up. You may have failed countless times but let your answer to Jesus’ question remain: “Yes, I want to be healed.”
One of the effects of sin is guilt – the feeling that we have become worthless creatures; unworthy of love and respect; unworthy even of God’s presence. The prodigal son tried to convince his own Father to employ him as one of his hired servants. Sin reduces the desire to pray in us. We start telling ourselves that God is too holy to listen to us meanwhile it is during such moments of guilt that we ought to pray more and be in God’s house. That is when we should bathe ourselves in the river of God’s mercy.
In today’s first reading, God opened the eyes of Ezekiel to see a river flowing from the sanctuary of the temple. God said to him: “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living creature which swarms will live, and there will be very many fish; for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.” (Ezekiel 47:8-9).
Let us pray: May we drink this water and become fresh again. Amen. May the dry bones of holiness within us receive life again. Amen. May this supernatural water deepen our hatred of sin and renew our resolve to receive healing from the wounds of sin. Amen.
Bible Study: Ezekiel 47:1-9,12, Ps. 46:2-3,5-6,8-9ab, John 5:1-3,5-16).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu