Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blame Game

When I was preparing for this morning's meditation and I saw that the Gospel for the day was John 5, my heart sank. This passage introduces one of the most unattractive personalities in the whole Bible, the whiny man at the pool of Bethzatha. Waiting by the healing waters for 38 years, when Jesus asks "Do you want to be well?" he never gives a straight answer. Instead, he complains about his helplessness, and speaks resentfully about the others who, for 38 years, have always gotten in ahead of him. Jesus, knowing that people with long-term illnesses may indeed succumb to some degree of self-pity, gives him a full and complete healing on the spot: "Take up your mat and walk." Cured, the man got up and left. (Not so much as a word of thanks!) Then, when he was challenged over carrying his mat on the Sabbath day, instead of testifying to the miracle, he retreated into his habitual resentment and pointed a blaming finger at Jesus, who was nowhere to be found. Instead, not long after, Jesus found him. Concerned to complete the healing of the "whole" person (some translations even phrase his question, "Do you want to be made whole?"), Jesus told him to avoid sin "so that nothing worse may happen to you." Brimming with resentment now against the one who had cured him, the man went to the authorities and reported on Jesus. Something "worse" had befallen him, because of his resentment: he rejected the opportunity for a life of joyful communion with Jesus, and instead handed him over to persecution, eager to be rid of him, and willing to be less than whole.
I think this story gives me the willies because it remind me how remarkably resistant we can be to transformation. It takes more than a miracle to change us; we have to be receptive.


Katie P. said...

Hi Sr. Anne.

Why do you think this character is in this narrative in this place? Is this one of those times that Jesus has to do something to fulfill a prophecy that sets him up for the later events or what?

Maybe I'm just really used to the parables which are so much easier to insert yourself into in terms of "a role"...but, like you, I can't see sympathizing with the "whiny guy"? And I wouldn't have done what Jesus did (which I admit openly...Jesus was a better person than I...).

So, in terms of faith, how should we be thinking about this reading? What's the pocket message? "Can't cure everyone?" Or is it maybe a message of healing is always there but you have to allow it?

I'm confused. As always, it seems...

xaipe said...

Hi, Katie! I added another paragraph at the end to make the point I took from this story... I do think John uses it to further his narrative: "it was because he did things such as this that they began to persecute him." ALSO (and very importantly), this event becomes Jesus' launching off point for declaring himself equal to the Father, who "gives life." John's next editorial comment will be
that his enemies would hold Jesus guilty of blasphemy for calling God his Father and making himself equal to God. That's, like, hugely important for John's Christology, and comes to a finale in Thomas' declaration, "My Lord and My God!"

Katie P. said...

Hey thanks for accepting my need for a "teaching moment."

Highly appreciated.