“Do you want to be well?”
Water is prominent in today’s readings. Water is a symbol of life, power, blessing and spiritual refreshment in the Sacred Scriptures.
The Mass Entrance Antiphon says, “All who are thirsty, come to the waters, says the Lord. Though you have no money, come and drink with joy.”
In the first reading Ezekiel has a vision of water flowing from the Temple. On one side of the Temple, the water that flows is so high that it becomes a river which can only be crossed by swimming.
In the Gospel reading, a crippled man is unable to access the water of the Pool of Bethesda. Bethesda was a pool of water near one of the Temple gates where the sick congregated.
Jesus asks the crippled man, “Do you want to be well?” He tells Jesus he is unable to get to the waters of the Pool of Bethesda because his ailment prevents him. In an act of pure mercy and grace, Jesus tells the cripple, ”Rise, take up your mat and walk.” The crippled man is healed and walks. Rather than focus on the grace poured out by God, Jesus’ adversaries focus on the fact that Jesus healed the crippled man on the Sabbath, and so they persecute Jesus.
On March 20th, Pope Francis granted indulgences to the faithful in response to the coronavirus. Some of the Church’s adversaries might like to criticize these indulgences, even using falsehoods and exaggerations. However, let us, the faithful upon whom this gift has been bestowed, like the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda, see this act by the Pope as an act of pure mercy and grace.
Like the crippled man, because of sickness, the coronavirus, we faithful are unable to get to the “pool” to receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confession. But as we saw in the Gospel, legal technicalities cannot stop God’s grace from flowing to his people.
These indulgences are a real instance of God’s superabundant mercy and grace made available to us through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the river of water flowing outside the Temple that Ezekiel saw in his vision, these indulgences are like a river of water, of grace, of blessing and life unleashed upon us in this time of darkness.
My friend, take up your mat and walk! Though you have no money, receive this gift of indulgences made available by Jesus Christ through his Church.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471-1479.
Cole, Jeffrey, ed. Daily Roman Missal. 7th ed. Woodridge: Midwest Theological Forum, Inc., 2012.
Editor. “Primer on Indulgences.” Catholic Answers. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.catholic.com/tract/primer-on-indulgences (with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur)
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Saint Joseph Edition of The New American Bible. personal size ed. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2011.
Hahn, Scott, ed. Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 2009.
Powell, Mark Allan, ed. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. New York: HarperOne, 2011.
Pronechen, Joseph. “Here’s How You Can Get the Vatican’s New COVID-19 Indulgences.” National Catholic Register. Accessed March 24, 2020. https://www.ncregister.com/blog/joseph-pronechen/vatican-grants-special-plenary-indulgences-during-coronavirus