Complaining can become a habit and it can soon burden our spirits—and our friends. When we're going through tough times, some amount of struggle and grief is to be expected. But as people of faith, we know that at some point we need to let go of the grieving and move forward with grace.
Having given up active Christian belief while a soldier, John was 40 before the depth of his sinfulness began to dawn on him. He decided to give the rest of his life to God's service, and headed at once for Africa, where he hoped to free captive Christians and, possibly, be martyred.
He was soon advised that his desire for martyrdom was not spiritually well based, and returned to Spain and the relatively prosaic activity of a religious goods store. Yet he was still not settled. Moved initially by a sermon of St. John of Avila (May 10), he one day engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past life.
Committed to a mental hospital for these actions, John was visited by St. John, who advised him to be more actively involved in tending to the needs of others rather than in enduring personal hardships. John gained peace of heart, and shortly after left the hospital to begin work among the poor.
He established a house where he wisely tended to the needs of the sick poor, at first doing his own begging. But excited by the saint's great work and inspired by his devotion, many people began to back him up with money and provisions. Among them were the archbishop and marquis of Tarifa.
Behind John's outward acts of total concern and love for Christ's sick poor was a deep interior prayer life which was reflected in his spirit of humility. These qualities attracted helpers who, 20 years after John's death, formed the Brothers Hospitallers, now a worldwide religious order.
John became ill after 10 years of service but tried to disguise his ill health. He began to put the hospital's administrative work into order and appointed a leader for his helpers. He died under the care of a spiritual friend and admirer, Lady Ana Ossorio.
The archbishop called John of God to him in response to a complaint that he was keeping tramps and immoral women in his hospital. In submission John fell on his knees and said: "The Son of Man came for sinners, and we are bound to seek their conversion. I am unfaithful to my vocation because I neglect this, but I confess that I know of no bad person in my hospital, except myself alone, who am indeed unworthy to eat the bread of the poor." The archbishop could only trust in John's sincerity and humility, and dismissed him with deep respect.
The utter humility of John of God, which led to a totally selfless dedication to others, is most impressive. Here is a man who realized his nothingness in the face of God. The Lord blessed him with the gifts of prudence, patience, courage, enthusiasm and the ability to influence and inspire others. He saw that in his early life he had turned away from the Lord, and, moved to receive his mercy, John began his new commitment to love others in openness to God's love.
The archbishop called John of God to him in response to a complaint that he was keeping tramps and immoral women in his hospital. In submission John fell on his knees and said: "The Son of Man came for sinners, and we are bound to seek their conversion. I am unfaithful to my vocation because I neglect this, but I confess that I know of no bad person in my hospital except myself alone, who am indeed unworthy to eat the bread of the poor." The archbishop could only trust in John's sincerity and humility, and dismissed him with deep respect.
God is with me, but more, God is within me, giving me existence. Let me dwell for a moment on God's life-giving presence in my body, my mind, my heart and in the whole of my life.
Lord grant me the grace to have freedom of the spirit. Cleanse my heart and soul so I may live joyously in your love.
I ask how I am within myself today? Am I particularly tired, stressed, or off-form? If any of these characteristics apply, can I try to let go of the concerns that disturb me?
The Word of God
Reading 1 Ez 47:1-9, 12
The angel brought me, Ezekiel, back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the façade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the right side. Then when he had walked off to the east with a measuring cord in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade through the water, which was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand and once more had me wade through the water, which was now knee-deep. Again he measured off a thousand and had me wade; the water was up to my waist. Once more he measured off a thousand, but there was now a river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming. He asked me, "Have you seen this, son of man?" Then he brought me to the bank of the river, where he had me sit. Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides. He said to me, "This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine."
Responsorial Psalm PS 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
R. (8) The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed; God will help it at the break of dawn.
R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Come! behold the deeds of the LORD, the astounding things he has wrought on earth.
R. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Verse Before the Gospel Ps 51:12a, 14a
A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the joy of your salvation.
Gospel Jn 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.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ The anonymous man lying by the pool called Bethzatha had waited thirty eight years for healing…He might be described as "living with desire" all that time. Our own prayers are not always answered immediately either. We too have to "live with desire". Remember T. S. Eliot's line: "But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting".
▪ The opponents of Jesus then criticise the man who had been cured for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. They use him to get at Jesus whom they, in John's words, now begin to persecute. We tend to think of goodness and kindness as attractive; yet here a compassionate act by Jesus evokes hostility. Why is this? In your experience have you ever seen a person's goodness evoking an evil response?
Jesus, you always welcomed little children when you walked on this earth. Teach me to have a childlike trust in you. To live in the knowledge that you will never abandon me.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
The prophet Ezekiel paints a picture of a beautiful stream that originates in the Temple and grows deeper and wider as it flows outward. It begins as an ankle-deep trickle but becomes a river that can be crossed only by swimming. It flows out over the whole land, bringing and sustaining life wherever it goes. It even turns the salty, toxic waters of the Dead Sea into a source of refreshment and promise! Wouldn't you love to be near that stream?
Well, you can! Every time you celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, this healing, rejuvenating river flows into you. It refreshes you and gives you a taste of new life. All the toxic waters of sin are driven out, and you are washed clean again.
Where are you in the stream? Ankle deep? In over your head? Somewhere in between? It doesn't matter! Wherever you are, God is inviting you to go deeper with each confession. Don't be afraid to wade or jump in, splash around, and get wet—go ahead and open up to your confessor a little more. Unlike earthly streams we have managed to pollute, this stream can wash everyone clean, no matter how great the sins we bring into it. That's because it is the river of God's mercy. And his mercy never fails.
Is there an area where God is inviting you to be cleansed and renewed? Take it to the sacrament so that you can soak in the soothing waters of God's forgiveness. And don't worry about jumping in over your head either. Try your best to let go of all the sins on your conscience. Just relax, and let the Spirit carry you.
Then, the next time you come to church, pause by the font of holy water. If your church keeps it dry during Lent, take time to reflect on your thirst for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit at Easter. If it is filled, pay extra attention as you make the sign of the cross. You are his! You are redeemed! That stream of life will grow deeper and stronger and more life-giving every day. It is carrying you, empowering you to be an agent of healing and refreshment to everyone around you.
"Jesus, I thirst for you. Let the water of your new life flow into me. Come, Jesus, and wash me clean!"
my2cents: From today's 1st Holy Scripture: " the façade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the right side of the temple". This water brought forth life. This Holy Temple was then the font, where the source of life was pouring forth. This Living Temple brought Living waters. Because the Jews new that moving waters, like a stream were "living" which meant Holy. This means life. This means that this Holy Temple was the font we are to drink of, like the living trees, or the living fish, all in a symbiotic relationship, which is the unison, and the uniting factor? The font of Life and here now, Life means eternity, and eternity with the Lord in the Heavens. And rightly so, as Our Lord, our Christ, whereupon He was crucified, His Holy and Precious right side was pierced with a lance, whereupon water flowed with the blood. The man, the centurion was immediately baptized, healed and saved at that moment He took a stab at Christ. Now, that is what was seen, and what is unseen is a million times more, for what the Lord opened up was the altar, the blood of the Lamb would become the saving waters for the living beings of this world. And this world is not the only world. Therefore, our life depends on the living water, to sustain life, and here, life means the Spirit inside you, your soul. The Psalms pray on " The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. " And none more evident than the man suffering for 38 years, the bout with the sin he supposed he suffered from, because to be thought crippled, was to be thought accursed, the payment for your sin. As the years progressed, faith faded, and no one would be there to assist. "God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress." In comes our Lord into our lives today by means of the Holy Word: ""Do you want to be well?" These words must've cut the man to the heart...."YES". Notice our Lord comes into the lives of the accursed. Notice how the Lord comes into the lives of the little. Notice how our Lord comes into save the ones in dire need, who have lost hope in the world, but not the Lord. This message is for you, for you who believe you are accursed, for you who have hope, for you who know there is a savior, for you who struggle to find the Way. The Jews ask the healed man "who told you to walk with your mat?". Nevermind he was healed, and nevermind the joy of salvation, and nevermind the cause behind the miraculous salvation, because other things were more important. I randomly opened the book "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas Kempis and read: " CHRIST: My child, do not be curious nor concern yourself with useless cares. What is this or that to you? Do you follow Me (Jn 21:22). What difference does it make to you whether this person is good or bad, or whether that one acts or speaks this way or that? You do not have to answer for others, but you must give an account of yourself; so why do you interfere where it does not concern you? I know everyone and know all that is done under the sun; and I know how things stand with all person-what they think, what they will and to what end their work is directed. All things are open to Me and all things are to be referred to Me. So be at peace, and do not let your mind be disturbed, and let those who want to pry into another's life be as busy as they will. In the long run, whatever they say and do will come back upon them, for they cannot deceive Me. " Earlier in the book it says "Sometimes our passions rule us and we mistake it for zeal. We are critical of the small defects in our neighbors, but overlook the serious faults in ourselves. We are quick to complain of what we put up with from others, with never a thought of what others suffer from us.
If we would see ourselves as we really are, we would not find cause to judge others severely".
And so I'll ask you today as I asked the Renew class Sunday afternoon, "who do you think you are if you place yourself in the Gospel today?" Are you the suffering soul that can't be healed? Or are you a Jew who persecutes (unknowingly). I bet it's easier to say you are the victim. Why didn't you say "I am the person of Christ today". There are very few in the world living the person of Christ. Sad in a world with a billion Catholics that can consume the REAL person of Christ into the soul, and can not act like the person of Christ. Why? WHY? Because, our passions consume us, and we do not consume Him. That's why. Because we don't fall on our knees for Him, unless the world is falling apart. Because we care more about what others think than what Christ thinks. I re-wrote last night an existing song "Sigue Adelante Sigue", (Follow forward Go), to say "Sigue A Cristo Sigue". (Follow Christ, Follow). The lyrics that remained said "do not care what others say, for they will not help".
The same is today. The healed man knew He wasn't supposed to walk with a mat according to the Jewish law. But He did it anyway in faith and obedience to the voice of God. Today, I challenge you. Because faith is a challenge, and a gift. I challenge you to obey, to listen, and to get up from your life of misery in the heart, to a life offered to Christ. From His heart pierced flowed the life-saving waters. From yours too will flow life if fruit is made with His living Waters, Holy Waters. What is being asked is nothing more than a cup of water for the poor, and what you do for the poor you do for Him. Lift up the Soul....