The Gospel reading for today takes us to the Bethesda pool, where Jesus asks a sick man if he wants to be made well and then heals him by telling him to pick up his mat and walk.
Of course, this is on the Sabbath, as the Lent readings are full of stories about Jesus getting in trouble for doing work on the Sabbath. However, in this case, the first one to get called out is the newly-healed man.
The poor guy has been sick since before Jesus was born, he has faith to just pick up his mat and walk, and our healing story comes to a screeching halt: “it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
The writer says it was the Jews who confronted him, but the only thing Jewish about it is that he happened to break a Jewish law. How many times have we all had a moment of freedom be interrupted by a prude?
How many times have we condemned others in their joy because it doesn’t conform to our ideas?
Like many things, the Sabbath is both an offering to God and a gift to us, but it’s easy to let rules and rigid practices get in the way of experiencing and sharing love.
Or is it the failure to know and connect with people that makes it possible to miss the healing and to focus on the mat? This instance is all the more insulting because carrying the mat is itself the miracle: The man has to point out that he was healed–the first thing they see is the mat, despite his being sick at the pool for so long.
I hope we all can work to see the person first and the mat second.
Appointed readings for today: Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12, Psalm 46:1-8, John 5:1-18