Beginning with the fourth week of Lent, the Gospel readings for our daily liturgy turn to the Gospel of St. John beginning with the curing of the son of a royal official at Cana of Galilee. Today we hear of another healing miracle, this time that of a man who has languished for thirty-eight years.
Unlike the synoptic Gospels, there are only four healing miracles in the Gospel of St. John, but each of them tells us something significant about Jesus’ power when it comes to physical health. The son of the royal official had been ill for just a short time. The man at the pool of Bethesda had been ill for thirty-eight years. Later in the Gospel, Jesus will restore sight to a man born blind. Finally, Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead and restore him to health.
Perhaps you have already noticed that the time frame of these physical maladies in each case is progressively longer and more devastating. Yet Jesus has command over all these physical illnesses, even death itself. All who suffer such illnesses, whether they be chronic or not, are within the scope of Jesus’ care and power.
Today’s healing miracle has an added theme to which we need to pay attention. Paired as it is with the reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, this reading has obvious baptismal references as well. Through baptism we are introduced to the Christian community, but it is also the sacrament which opens up the life of grace for the healing of our souls.
Such baptismal references are included in our Lenten Scriptures to prepare us for the renewal of our own baptismal promises on the feast of Easter. Through this sacrament, the font of life is opened for us, the life of God’s grace and illumination given us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the divine physician, heals our bodies as well as our souls.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator