In the Bible, we see people who are suffering from all sorts of ailments and diseases and are seeking out Jesus for healing. But where are the people asking Jesus to heal them of their sins? Yes, our physical problems can loom large, but Jesus is just as concerned with our spiritual illnesses—our attachments to sin and our avoidance of his ways.
Today’s Gospel shows us several people who need to start down the path of spiritual healing. First, there is the man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus asks him if he wants to be well, he doesn’t answer directly and instead complains about his situation. After healing him, Jesus tells him not to sin anymore, “so that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).
These brief interactions give us clues that this man probably had more problems than just physical ones. Maybe he was even reluctant to be healed, incredible as it seems. He was used to living with his sickness, and being well meant entering into a new kind of life. For one thing, he would be expected to work now. The change could be scary.
The religious authorities in the story also need some spiritual healing. When they see the man cured, they are filled with jealousy and are more concerned with upholding sabbath rules than in recognizing a miracle. Suspecting that their authority and traditions are being threatened, they too seem to fear change.
Now, Jesus may choose to heal our bodies miraculously, and he may not. But he definitely wants to heal our souls—and he needs our ongoing cooperation to do that. He understands that our sins can feel comfortable and difficult to give up. But he promises even greater joy as we put them aside, take up our mat, and follow him.
The paralyzed man in the Gospel may not have been prepared for Jesus to heal him—and you don’t have to be either. But when an opportunity for change comes to you, don’t try to brush it off as that man did. Don’t be afraid to offer him your messy baggage and accept his generous offer of grace. Jesus will stay with you; he will help you accept the change he is offering you.
“Jesus, help me to be open to the healing you want to do in my life.”
May the venerable exercises of holy devotion shape the hearts of your faithful, O Lord, to welcome worthily the Paschal Mystery and proclaim the praises of your salvation.