One of the most intriguing stories in the Gospel is the story of the crippled man waiting for healing at the Pool of Bethesda. The man has been suffering for 38 years but is unable to get to the pool fast enough when the angel comes to stir the waters. Jesus sees him and asks if he wants to be well. When the man expresses his desire for healing but his inability to reach it on his own, Jesus heals him on the spot. But then, Jesus later seeks out the now healed man to warn him about sin. He says: “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jn 1:14
This Lent, Jesus will approach us with the same question: 'Do you want to be well? Do you want to know where sin has crippled you, paralyzed you? And do you want to know true freedom?' Because, Jesus comes to destroy the sickness of sin and the deformity it causes in our lives. We only have to desire it and choose it.
Many years ago, an older friend shared a dream that deeply disturbed him...He was walking through a lovely forest when he came upon a clearing with a house in the middle of it. The house exerted a powerful pull on him. Everything within him wanted to go into that house. So he approached the screened-in porch, entered, and headed for the front door. As he walked up to the front door, someone came up to him and said: “Before you can go in you have to eat this.” He looked down to see a plate of dog excrement being handed to him.
He, of course, was upset that he could have had such a dream, not knowing at first what it could possibly mean. But then, in a flash of insight it became clear. The dream was an attempt to reframe a deep struggle that had to do with an almost over-powering temptation to grave sin. Everything within him wanted to give in to the attraction of this particular sin. Yet his faith told him that if he gave in to this sin he would so defile himself that it would be like eating a plate of manure.
Sin is really that ugly. And it's an ugliness we give ourselves. We often recognize that something is wrong within us, in the deep recesses of our being. We are attracted to things that are not good, things that enslave us, make us feel ugly about ourselves, and keep us from true freedom. And once we are bound, immobilized as it were, it takes an intervention of God’s grace to free us. We cannot free ourselves.
our original beauty!
So how can we access the same healing Jesus so freely gives in the Gospels? Many ways are possible. But we are given 3 special gifts during Lent which stir up the waters of grace in our lives. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Prayer stirs up the grace we need for deeper healing in our relationship with God. Fasting brings the waters of grace down upon the disorder we have within ourselves. And Almsgiving opens up rivers of grace in our relationship to others.
Additionally, if you want to have the same direct encounter with Jesus that the crippled man had, start frequenting the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and Holy Communion after that. Every sacrament contains within it a personal encounter with the living God. Hence, every sacrament contains rivers of grace that can change us to the degree we let those waters flow.
Our deepest healing will always come first and foremost from eliminating sin in our lives. Sin always brings suffering, both personal and at the same time, upon the whole Body of Christ. There is no such thing as a private sin. As Our Lady of Fatima warned us over a century ago: war, something we often live in fear of, is a consequences of sin, both private sin and institutionalized, communal sin.