These last few weeks the news has been filled with tragic circumstances. Not that the news is not always, or perhaps it just seems that way, filled with bad news but it seems these last few weeks it has been especially difficult. The nation of Nepal was hit by the worst earthquake that the country has ever seen and at the time of this writing, the death toll is not complete but stands somewhere around five-thousand lives lost. This is not to mention all of the injured and those who are now left homeless. What transpired in Baltimore has also been part of the news cycle. The death of a man in custody and the subsequent riots has captivated us and proves that race relations in America are still not resolved. Sometimes the situation is so complex that we just don’t know what to do.
On the Fourth Sunday after Easter we read in the Gospel of St. John the story of a man who has been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. He is lying by a pool, a pool that has been known to contain healing powers. At certain times the water moves, and it is believed that an angel of the Lord comes down to the water, and the first person who enters will be healed by that same angel. The man is lying there with no way to get into the pool when the water stirs.
Jesus finds him there and asks him if he wishes to be healed and the man replies that he was no one to put him in the water and others step over him when the water stirs so he just lays there in the hope that someone will come by to help him. This is a tragic situation for the man because he is paralyzed but also because no one will help him, and they just step over him like he is not even there.
But Jesus does not just simply heal the man. First he asks him if he wants to be healed. God does not force us to follow Him he asks us we have to choose to follow or not to follow and, as I have mentioned before; we have to make this conscious choice daily. The man desires to be healed, so Jesus tells him to rise, take up his mat, and go. Jesus does not say that the man is healed he tells him to do something; miracles happen when we work together with God. The miracle of the healing took place when the man rose, maybe unsteady at first, but he rose and did as he was told.
When we chose to follow Jesus, we also agree to follow a set of standards or rules. We cannot follow Jesus and do it our way as if we knew better than God what we needed and how to obtain it. This is when the wheels come off the wagon for us, and we get tempted by the Evil One. We must do as we are told, as this man did, in order for our healing to take place and we all need healing.
But let us focus for a minute on the others, the ones who stepped over this man as if he was not even there. How many times have we done this in our lives? How many times have we witnessed someone on the street holding a cup, or maybe walking along the side of the road with a sign collecting spare change, and we just look away? If we do not make eye contact, then that person is invisible to us, and we can go on our way without being bothered. Perhaps we are the miracle for that person and by us cooperating with God will enable the healing of that person to take place.
We are called if we truly desire to follow Christ, to love and assist our neighbors and this is not just the guy that lives next door. It is the man lying by the pool looking for someone to pick him and help him with his healing. It is that beggar (I hate that word but not sure what else to use) on the street looking for whatever we have to offer other than a dirty look. It is that person who has just moved into the neighborhood and knows no one and just needs a friend. Or maybe it is that friend who calls us up at midnight just to talk. We never know what miracles we will be part of.
The tragic situations I mentioned at the start of this essay are filled tiny miracles. Stories of people trapped for days under the rubble that somehow survived long enough to be rescued. The story of the police officer that went to the aid of a protester that was having a seizure on the streets of Baltimore. He pushed his way through the crowd and held the man’s hand until the medical personnel arrived to help him. And in a million other small ways that never make the news.
Be open to the miracle that God can work through us, it just might change your life!