I am struck in today’s Gospel by the briefness and directness of Jesus’ words to the cripple man by the pool of Bethzatha:
“Do you want to be well again?”
Despite waiting by the healing pool for 38 years, the man does not respond to Jesus with a focussed and faith-filled “of course I want to be well!”. Instead, he gives this curious stranger, a rather wordy and defeatist explanation of why “it’s never gonna happen”.
Perhaps the man has been repeating this narrative for decades to himself and to anyone who will listen.
Jesus does not engage with the man’s understandable defeatism. Instead, he looks deeper, into the fundamental desires of the heart of a person who had spent so much of their life hanging around the healing waters, without finding a way to plunge in.
Jesus responds with power to that dormant, almost forgotten desire, hidden deep within:
“Pick up your mat and walk”
We can be a bit like the crippled man. We hang around in all the right places. We engage in all the right activities. Anyone would think we are filled with faith and optimism but in truth, we are plagued by negative narratives which protect us from having to have a close encounter with our truest, deepest hopes and longings.
Praise be to God that Jesus looks beyond the stories we tell ourselves which function to insulate us from hope and potential disappointment. Jesus recognises our deepest, most potent desires and he knows how to call them forth.
In these troubles times, let’s risk entering into direct dialogue with this mysterious stranger, Jesus, that he may awaken our deepest longings and empower us to pursue them.