Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Pick It Up

The gospel selection for this day in Lent tells us about a healing Jesus performed on a Sabbath. He met a man, apparently crippled, who had lain next to the pool at Bethsaida for 38 years. It was said that an angel would at times come down to stir the water. When that happened the first to arrive in the pool was cured. The man lamented that he could never make it. Someone always got their before him. Jesus asked the man: "Do you want to be well?" Instead of answering yes right away, the man told his story. Jesus' reply was this, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." If we want to be well, we cannot remain motionless. Jesus told the man to get up and pick up his bedroll. In Lent, when we feel called to do a good deed, or to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation we cannot remain motionless. We must allow the Holy Spirit to permeate us, to let his strength move us to repentance, to good deeds, to a deeper life of prayer. If someone has the grace to return to confession/the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even after a long separation from it, he or she can feel like she is walking on a cloud. "Take up your mat" can mean put more effort into your daily routine. If a pedestrian steps into your path and you have to brake suddenly, say a quick Hail Mary. When you may feel cranky due to a late night project, resist the temptation to snarl at one whose ways annoy you. Pause a moment and ask Jesus to help you to show his gentleness and patience, instead of your rudeness. Jesus faded into the crowd immediately after he cured the man with the mat. Afterwards Jesus found him and said, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more...." One commentator wrote about this man: "He never takes hold of the life that Jesus has restored to him" (Vatican II Missal)
I wonder if that man who was cured later found a good job. He probably entered a whole new lifestyle: no more begging or sitting next to a pool. Did he follow Jesus? What would I have done? Jesus offers me life every day. Do I take hold of what he offers me? These thistles seem to me to epitomize the harshness of penance. So the thorns too remind us of Jesus bearing a crown of thorns. "Seize the day"--seize the moments of grace Jesus send you!

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