Excavations in the Pool of Bethesda
HEALED BY JESUS
- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of the prophet Ezekiel 47: 1-9,12
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St John 5: 1-3,5-16
1.3. Simple Comment: Psalm 46 used in today’s responsorial psalm fittingly depicts the common denominator of the first and the Gospel readings: “There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God… God is in its midst; the Lord of hosts is with us. Come! behold the deeds of the Lord, the astounding things he has wrought on earth!” The water that abundantly flows by the Temple of Jerusalem is now found in the person of Jesus, who is the living water from whom the man who was laying ill for thirty-eight years finds abundant life.
- Monument: Bethesda
2.1. Bethesda means House of Mercy. The ruins of the Pool of Bethesda lies today in the compound of the White Fathers where traditionally is held to be the birthplace of the Blessed Mother, commemorated with the Church of St. Anne.
2.2. In the time of Jesus it was also called the Sheep Pool because nearby were the sheep market and the Sheep Gate. Sheep was kept here because it was just at the northern side of the Temple where sacrifices of sheep and lamb were regularly offered. The pool served for the cleansing of the animals before they were killed for the sacrificial offering.
2.3. Ruins of the building which housed the curative waters as mentioned in today’s Gospel are still visible. Special moments in the day were those in which the underground springs of water bubbled up through the reservoirs into the pool; these were moments thought to be particularly helpful in the healing process – people attributed the stirring of the waters to the hand of God’s angel. Later the Romans under the emperor Hadrian (years 117-138 AD) built on this site a shrine to Asclepius, the famed god of cures!
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. The healing of the man, ill for thirty-eight years, is the third of the signs the evangelist of the Fourth Gospel chose to present to his readers. Interestingly, like what we have mentioned in yesterday’s reflection, the man was not cured by going into the Pool but simply by the word of Jesus – at his command: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk.” When Jesus met the healed man again, he followed the physical cure with a spiritual encouragement: “Sin no more, or something worse may happen to you.”
3.2. That Jesus would move from the physical cure for the spiritual is typical of him. His is a calling for repentance and a change of life. The miracle he aims is for a greater healing, the turning away from sin. The difference between miracle working and spiritual healing lies in the fact that, whereas God can cure physical illness without a person’s willing it, he will not heal one on the spiritual level without one’s agreeing to it. However powerful his grace, however much he urges and threatens and woos us, God will not take away our free wills. It is precisely this free choice that God so ardently seeks from us!
- Contemporary Filipino Question: It has been noted that only in the Philippines, more particularly in Manila and its neighboring cities, are there so many Masses daily celebrated in offices and parish churches at noontime. It is phenomenal how many of us receive daily communion, and perhaps many more who visit the Eucharistic presence in an adoration chapel or the Blessed Sacrament, at noon break. But do we really mean it when we say at communion time: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but say the word and I shall be healed”? Is there effective change in us because there is true willingness to repent and to reform?