Saint Jerome (345 – 420) dedicated his life to studying the Bible, and once said: “Does one not seem to dwell, already here on earth, in the kingdom of heaven when one lives with these texts, when one meditates on them, when one does not know or seek anything else?” Saint Jerome is asking us to be in love with the Word of God. Later he said: “How could one live without the knowledge of Scripture, through which one learns to know Christ himself, who is the life of believers?” The Bible is an instrument “by which God speaks every day to the faithful”.
Alternatively, you can try taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it.
Throughout its 800 years, Carmelite spirituality has placed a particularly strong emphasis on pondering Scripture and is called Lectio Divina. This is the Latin for 'Holy Reading' and was a form and approach to praying with Scripture that was common among medieval religious orders. Essentially Lectio Divina involves taking a short passage of Scripture and pondering it. This can be done alone and normally involves prolonged periods of silence.
Today’s reading is John 5:1-16 and this reading plus a reflection and prayer can be viewed below:
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
You have quenched our thirst for life
with the water of baptism.
Keep turning the desert of our arid lives
into a paradise of joy and peace,
that we may bear fruits
of holiness, justice and love.
Lord, hear our prayer
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 5:1-16
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 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?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me." Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." He answered them, "The man who made me well told me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?" The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.
• Today’s Gospel describes Jesus curing the paralytic who had waited 38 years for someone to help him get to the water of the pool so as to be healed! Thirty-eight years! Faced with this total absence of solidarity, what does Jesus do? He transgresses the law of Saturday and cures the paralytic. Today, in poor countries, assistance to sick people is lacking; people experience the same lack of solidarity. They live in total abandonment, without help or solidarity from anyone.
• John 5:1-2: Jesus goes to Jerusalem. On the occasion of the Jewish festival, Jesus goes to Jerusalem. There, close to the Temple, was a pool with five porticos or corridors. At that time, worship in the Temple required much water because of the numerous animals which were sacrificed, especially during the great festivals. This is why near the Temple there were several cisterns where rain water was gathered. Some could contain over one thousand litres. Close by, because of the abundance of water, there was a public bathing resort, where crowds of sick people gathered waiting for help or to be healed. Archeology has shown that in the same precincts of the Temple, there was a place where the Scribes taught the Law to students. On one side, the teaching of the Law of God. On the other, the abandonment of the poor. The water purified the Temple, but it did not purify the people.
• John 5:3-4: The situation of the sick. These sick people were attracted by the water of the bathing resort. They said that an angel would disturb the water, and the first one who would enter after the angel disturbed the water, would be cured. In other words, the sick people were attracted by a false hope – a superstition. Healing was only for one person. Just like the lottery today. Only one person gets the prize! The majority pays and wins nothing. In this situation of total abandonment, in the public baths, Jesus meets sick people.
• John 5:5-9: Jesus cures a sick man on Saturday. Very close to the place where the observance of the Law was taught, a paralytic had been waiting for 38 years for someone who would help him to go down to the water to be cured. This fact reveals the total lack of solidarity and of acceptance of the excluded! Number 38 indicated the duration of a whole generation (Dt 2:14). It is a whole generation which does not experience solidarity or mercy. Religion at that time was not able to reveal the welcoming and merciful face of God. In the face of this dramatic situation Jesus transgresses the law of Saturday and takes care of the paralytic, saying, “Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk around!” The man picked up his mat and started to walk around among the people.
• John 5:10-13: Discussion of the cured man with the Jews. Immediately after, some Jews arrived and criticized the man who was carrying his sleeping mat on the Sabbath. The man did not know who the one who had cured him was. He did not know Jesus. This means that Jesus, passing by that place where the poor and the sick were, saw that person; He noticed the dramatic situation in which the man found himself and cured him. He did not cure him to convert him, neither so that he would believe in God. He cured him because He wanted to help him. He wanted the man to experience love and solidarity through His help and loving acceptance.
• John 5:14-16: The man meets Jesus again. Going to the Temple, in the midst of the crowds, Jesus meets the same man and tells him, “Now, you are well again, do not sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.” In that age, people thought and said, “Sickness is a punishment from God. God is with you!” Once the man is cured, he has to keep from sinning again, so that nothing worse will happen to him! But in his naiveté, the man went to tell the Jews that Jesus had cured him. The Jews began to ask Jesus why He did those things on the Sabbath. In tomorrow’s Gospel we have what follows.
4) Personal questions
• If I were the cured man, and told not to say anything, would I be silent or not?
• By proclaiming what had been done for him, despite his instruction, did he sin again?
• Have I ever had an experience similar to that of the paralytic: to remain for some time without any help? How is the situation regarding assistance to the sick in the place where you live? Do you see any signs of solidarity?
• Do I show the same compassion and help others without expecting a return and in a significant way every day?
5) Concluding Prayer
God is both refuge and strength for us,
a help always ready in trouble;
so we shall not be afraid though the earth be in turmoil,
though mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,
and its waters roar and seethe,
and the mountains totter as it heaves. (Ps 46:1-3)