When we hear about the healing of the unfortunate man who had lain sick for 38 years, our hearts are stirred with joy because the Lord is so merciful and so close. But there is in this story also something which is addressed to us, and which calls forth not joy, but rather, horror. For 35 years the man lay beside the pool; for 38 years God’s blessing was available to him, and for 38 years not a single person came along to help him plunge into the healing waters. Is that not horrifying?
The same problem faces us: God’s blessing is accessible, it is close, it is all round us, and sometimes a man by making a single step, by stretching out his hand could reach the source of bodily healing, of revelation, of the profoundest spiritual change, joy instead of sorrow and despair – and for years he may not find another person who would put within his reach this grace that God holds ready for him. Is that not horrifying? And this concerns every one of us; there are countless people in need around us – there are the hungry and the cold, the unclothed and the homeless, but there are even more without a friend. They may be surrounded by a crowd, but every face is equally anonymous, there is no one who would notice another, look into his eyes, single him out in the crowd, stretch out a hand to him. There is so much emotional and so much spiritual need all around us, so much loneliness, and often a person can find no friend for years and years. Maybe the Lord Himself will search him out with His grace, as He did with that sick man in Jerusalem, but that in no way relieves us of responsibility, nor frees us from the condemnation that our blindness, our coldness, our unfriendliness deserve.
It is not enough to talk of our love for God. St. John says that if anyone says he loves God and neglects his brother, does not love him with a lively, active, creative, perceptive love, he is a liar. So let us ask ourselves this question: have I, living among people the way I do, the right to talk about any sort of love for God? And if our conscience answers, no you have no right, then we must alter our whole lives. Let us face this question squarely, for at present it is still a question, but sooner or later it will stand before us as an accusation. We have the time, we have everything that is needed to understand, to have our eyes opened, and to change our lives.
Let us start now in the light of Christ’s Resurrection, illumined by His love, let us start changing our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by our strength, but by the power of God’s love, and then we shall find around us not a human hell but already the beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven..
Published: NEWSLETTER No. 75, June 1976