Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9,12; Psalm 45; John 5:1-3,5-16
There is a wonderful hospitality in Jesus' question, 'do you want to be well again?' It can seem a bit strange: surely the answer is obvious. But Jesus does not presume. As well as his hospitality there is his obedience in the literal sense of the term: his listening, the way he provides a space in which the other person can speak and be heard. It is at the heart of all loving, that we allow the other to be, to speak, to tell us what it is they want, to listen to what they want to say and not just hear what we think they want to say.
It makes Jesus' comment towards the end even more perplexing: 'be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you'. Worse than what, we might wonder. Worse than being ill for thirty eight years? But surely Jesus himself has been fighting hard against this connection of sin and suffering, has been trying to break that link. In Chapter 9 of St John's gospel we will find him resisting the idea very strongly, in the case of the man born blind.
'Something worse' can only mean spiritual paralysis, worse than the physical disability from which he had suffered. It brings this story close to that of the paralysed man let down through the roof to whom Jesus says 'your sins are forgiven'. Which is more difficult, to say your sins are forgiven or to say arise and walk? To forgive sins must be the more difficult, the healing of humanity at that radical level where desire is confused, understanding is clouded, and the will is distorted.
But this is the healing promised by the paschal mystery. All who have entered the waters of baptism (the Sheep Pool) are made new, born again, set right, made able to walk in the way of Jesus. He is never sentimental and always truthful. The sick man is brought into the light of that truth. He is healed but he must continue now to walk in the same light. And so the man becomes an apostle, telling them that it was Jesus who had cured him.