One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. – John 5.5 – 9
The Gospel lectionary reading for today reminds us of the significance of pairing physical and spiritual healing.
Today, in Western culture, we are increasingly rediscovering the wisdom of integral and holistic approaches to the medical arts; a methodology that address the needs of body, mind and soul.
Yet unwisely and unfortunately in our capitalistic culture, we have turned the medical arts into profit centers. The question we are often asked is not “Do you want to be well?”, but rather, “Do you have insurance?” and then,”What are your symptoms?”
From this passage we gain awareness that illness and lack of wellness is sometimes a lifetime in the making. Poor food choices. Lack of exercise. High stress situations. These and other dynamics all contribute to our need for physical and spiritual healing.
Lent is an ideal time to re-discover the “still pool of water” that can be stirred up through fasting. Fasting is not only a spiritual exercise for the will, it is also a healing remedy for the body. By way of example of the wisdom of the ancient practice of fasting, consider the story of my friend. He just turned seventy years old, but two years ago he was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer. He has received the best medical treatment available at an internationally renown medical hospital. What my friend has personally discovered through his healing process is that fasting from food three days in a row, and then eating a nutrient rich meal triggers the body’s natural healing remedies that fight off and prevent the development of cancer cells.
To sum up. Several aspects of this Gospel passage reveal universal truths related to our wellness:
First, our wish and desire is key. Do you wish to be well? How much of you wishes to be well? With your whole being, or only with the parts of you that are scared or feel sorry?
Second, a healing modality to treat the body is needed and not to be avoided.
Third, the spiritual dimension is an available reality, and supplements the healing modality. This spiritual dimension is often intangible and inexplicable. It is responded to and received by faith.
May I also suggest that perhaps the “pool of healing” available to each of us in every moment is the refuge of silence and stillness. Twenty to thirty minutes soaking in the silence and stillness of meditative prayer, day by day, is a healing remedy for comprehensive wellness – body, mind and soul.
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