“Do you want to be well?” Jesus asks the sick man on his mat in today’s Gospel, as he waits to be brought to the healing pool of Bethesda.
The sick man answers, though not directly. “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.”
I, like the sick man, desperately want to be well. I want to be holy and Christlike, to treat every person I meet according to their God-given dignity. I wish to stand up to injustice much in the way that Jesus did—readily and without fear. I want to rid my heart of every impurity and, perhaps by sheer force of will, heal the sickness in my soul.
But despite my best intentions, I violate human dignity almost daily, harming others by my thoughts, words, and actions. I shy away from uncomfortable conversations, becoming complacent to injustice.
It seems no matter what I do, I cannot make myself well.
Don’t we all fall short of perfection? Aren’t we all dragging ourselves toward the pool of healing—struggling, failing to do it all on our own?
Jesus sees it all: our weakness and futility, our prideful independence. He comes to us in our sickness and offers, quite simply, to make us well again.
When will we learn that it’s not up to us?
I, for one, am tired of inching my way down to the healing waters I know I’ll never reach. I yearn for the day I finally stop looking right and left, comparing myself against my fellow sick people who pass me along the journey.
I am ready to allow Christ to help me “pick up [my] mat and go.”
Katlyn Toelle is the communications manager for Catholic Mobilizing Network, a national organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice. Katlyn holds a B.S. and previously worked with Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem Foundation. She currently serves as English music director for Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Washington, DC.