Today’s first reading brings me back to an acclamation that I bet I’ve heard at Mass at least a hundred times in my life.
“I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple, Alleluia Alleluia…”
It’s funny how there are some of those that stand out in our minds. While I read the first reading for today, that’s what my mind kept wandering to, all the times I’ve heard that verse and sung it over the years in various Catholic churches wherever I happened to be that Sunday.
There is something beautiful about the tradition of our faith, the ritual and the order. We walk into Mass and we know there will be an opening song, a first reading, a responsorial psalm that we might even remember from last time. It’s such a rich, incredible faith.
But there can also be a bit of danger with it too. If it starts to feel like the “same old same old,” if a reading reminds us not of the words but only that you’ve heard it all before — we never want “ritual” to become “mundane”.
That’s the beauty of this Lenten season, though — the chance for growth, God’s offer (yet again!) to make all things new. This faith of ours is wonderful in its history and ritual, but it is a living, breathing faith that wants us to be new creatures. We are new every morning, thanks to God’s faithfulness.
In the Gospel today, we hear the story of the man Jesus heals after years of suffering.
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 man thinks he cannot be made well; there is no one to help him into the healing waters, but Jesus can do it.
“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.”
Jesus can do it. He can handle our problems. He can heal us. He has that miraculous, generous gift to offer us.
That is the beauty of our faith; the miracle not just of the Lenten season but always. Our faith is alive; Jesus wants us to be whole. He offers us his hand; he doesn’t even need you to find someone to get you into the pool. He is here, offering you wholeness in Him.
As we continue our journey in Lent, let us cry out to God with our areas of suffering. We offer our suffering back to Jesus, but we also, with expectant faith, ask him to heal the areas of our body, mind and soul that needs his loving, miraculous touch.
Rachel Balducci is a columnist for The Southern Cross newspaper of the Diocese of Savannah and a co-host of The Gist on CatholicTV. She and her husband, Paul, have five sons and one daughter and are members of Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta, Georgia.