“How is your heart?” I was asked this week.
It made me stop. And think. And admit that I prefer, “Are you keeping busy?” because that question is easier to answer.
In John’s Gospel, there is a wonderful story about a tough question and a fabled pool. This famous pool, near the Sheep’s Gate in Jerusalem, included five porticoes, where chronically sick and disabled of the city lived, waiting. You see, rumor (or legend) believed that an angel visits the pool, at random times, stirring up the water, which gives it healing properties. But there was a catch. Only the first person to step into the pool after the angel disturbs it, receives healing. Like a lottery.
So. Jesus passes by this outdoor nursing home and sees a man lying by the pool. This man has been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus stops, and asks the man a question. No introductions. No small talk. No sermon. Just a question: “Do you want to be made well?”
Simple question. Maybe? But the answer is not so simple.
Jesus prefers these “tell-me-the-truth” questions. (“Do you love me?” “Why are you so afraid?” “Are you also going to leave?” “How long shall I put up with you?” “Do you still not understand?”)
“Do you want to be made well?”
“You’re kidding, right? Of course, I do.”
Except the man didn’t say that, and the story gets intriguing. The man begins to explain (well-rehearsed excuses to be certain) the mechanics of scarcity in this makeshift nursing facility; “I am all alone, and have no one to put me into the pool.” The world is very, very unfair; “While I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” He hems and haws, he dodges, he invites pity. And I get it. Because it all sounds familiar. (Of course, I’m old school, and I keep variations of these same reasons on a rolodex in my mind.)
Here’s the real question; where do you tether your well-being?
I can relate because I have spent much of my life tethered to (invested in) my brokenness and shame, seeing my identity wrapped up only in scarcity. It is no surprise that I see only my infirmity or defeat. It is no surprise that I feel disconnected and diminished. Because shame entombs capacity and dignity. And to be made well unnerves me more than I want to admit.
Jesus cuts to the chase. In his direct question and invitation, he is saying loudly and clearly to the man, “I see more than your sickness. I see more than your defeat, your resignation and your stagnation. Yes, your hope has dwindled, however I see your capacity to choose, grow, give, transform and spill light. Where you see scarcity, I see sufficiency.”
In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, about the battle for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, Balian of Ibelin began knighting ordinary men, making them understand that inside of them was a knight, something far greater than the limitations of their birth or fears or status.
The Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem (almost crying): “Who do you think you are? Will you alter the world? Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?”
Balian of Ibelin: “Yes”
“Look up at me,” Balian of Ibelin was saying to each man. “See in my eyes something more and far greater than you see and know in your limitations.”
Yes. Find the healing you long for in your own lineage; the lineage of knighthood. There are two helpful verbs here. See. In the words of Hafiz of Shiraz, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
And know. Internalize what you now see, and act on it.
We mention that the man at the pool was “ill”, meaning suffering a physical infirmity. But it is more than that. This is a good reminder that there is a big difference between what we call disease and what we call illness. A disease is a pathological entity; an illness is the effect of the disease on the patients’ entire way of life. (Dr. Sherwin Nuland)
A disease may tell us about our physical limitations.
But the illness tells us what we can or cannot do and who we can or cannot be.
Healing is deeper than changing the limitations, physical or emotional.
We heal and find wholeness when we respond to the invitation and permission to embrace the sacred in each moment, leading a life that keeps our heart and soul awake every day.
Here’s the deal: Today, give me a transformed and undefended heart (Thank you Saint Augustine)
I appreciate Debi Thomas’ take, “Here’s what I love about the story in John’s Gospel. ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk,’ Jesus tells the man. And the man does exactly that. ‘At once,’ John tells us, ‘the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.’
Notice that the man never asks for healing. There’s no indication in the story that he even knows who Jesus is. Notice that Jesus makes no reference to belief, as he often does when he performs a healing miracle. He doesn’t tell the man, ‘Your faith has made you well,’ because that would be a lie. Notice that Jesus doesn’t dwell on the man’s past; he doesn’t dredge up the loss and waste of the thirty-eight years the man can’t get back. And notice that he doesn’t heal the man on the man’s terms — by helping him into the pool when the angel stirs the water. Jesus simply tells the man to get up and walk. And he does.
Jesus is always and everywhere in the business of making new and making well. His desire to heal is intrinsic to his character — it doesn’t depend on me. In other words, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ is a question he will never stop asking, because his heart’s desire is for my wholeness, my freedom, and my thriving.”
I hope you savored summer solstice this past week. Light here until past 9:30.
And speaking of thriving, the garden is my teacher and makes me glad to be alive.
Quote for your week…
Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death. Betty Bender
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Thank you, thank you, thank you for Sabbath Moments! Like many others, I too, look forward to Monday’s SM. So grateful for your ministry and for your gift of revealing moment by moment Grace to others! Diana
–Dear Terry, I had not received any emails since Feb. 11, 2019. I had AOL as my address and finally realized that was the problem. I didn’t realize how much I have missed our Monday morning visits and I’m so thankful I’m receiving again. Peace, Irene
–Thank you Terry for SM. Finding time to pause is my goal for this year. I’m interested in the discussion questions. I work as an elementary school counselor which can be hectic at times. My counselor friends and I want to start meeting once a month to help us find sanctuary in the midst of our stressful work. I think this might work for us. Raquel
–Terry. There are not words to thank you properly for the peace you remind me of each time your email arrives. People could learn much from animals. They are not living for tomorrow. They are in the now. This belly rub. This Go Bye Bye. This cuddle. This kiss. This sleep. In the end, the “This” is all that truly matters. This Moment. Thank you for your weekly reminder. Of all the “Inspirationals” I receive in my Inbox, yours lowers my BP, helps me focus on “the moment” and “just breathe”. Continue your stories. You may never know whom you save. Carolyn
–So very special to read the Col. Tueller story. My father was a WWII combat veteran, (also a retired colonel), landing in Italy a few days after D-Day. In his honor and memory, we attended the 75th anniversary service June 6 at the Bedford, VA Memorial, along with nearly 20,000 others. Vice President Pence spoke in a very moving presentation of the many lives lost during that significant battle and the year following until the final surrender. In my late teens, facing potential service in Vietnam, my father shared observations and wisdom regarding the severe toll war inflicts on all in battle and those at home. Tueller’s tale brought some memories back. Ken
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
The more you become a connoisseur of gratitude,
the less you are a victim of resentment,
depression, and despair.
Gratitude will act as an elixir that will gradually dissolve
the hard shell of your ego
— your need to possess and control —
and transform you into a generous being.
The sense of gratitude produces true spiritual alchemy,
makes us magnanimous —
The warrior’s approach
is to say “yes” to life:
“yes” to it all.
in the sorrows of the world.
We cannot cure the world of sorrows,
but we can choose to live in joy.
When we talk about settling the world’s problems
we’re barking up the wrong tree.
The world is perfect. It’s a mess.
It has always been a mess.
We are not going to change it.
Our job is to straighten out our own lives.
Slow my pace, Lord.
Slow my life. Come sit by me at the well. I am exhausted.
Give rest to my heart; bring calm to my feelings. Come, lead me to the mountain. I am empty.
Give me these hours the leisure to be still that I savor the quiet of rolling hills, tasting the presence of the Divine.
Bring me from the running of the day and the doing of the duties to the sitting in the evening to know the reward of being.
Set aside the problems of mind; soothe the aches of the heart; give rest to the body that I hear the music of my being and know a quiet that allows the soaring of the soul.
Be gentle, Teacher, teaching the truth of being. In gentleness, command: “Silence!”
In stillness embrace my spirit and re-enkindle with love… and opening the embrace give freedom to the soul.
Slow my pace, Spirit of Love, breathe into my being, Word… and with a mighty wind blow the incarnate word to the ends of the earth.
Monsignor Bernard Powers