On the Miraculous Pool in Jerusalem.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Miraculous Pool in Jerusalem.
At the so-called sheep’s gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, possessing a miraculous power of healing, on account of which it bore the name of Bethsaida, i.e., a fount or source of healing and grace. Go in spirit to this pool; around its basin you will see a pentangular colonnade, with five porches. In these a multitude of sick people suffering from various infirmities and diseases are anxiously awaiting the moment when the angel of God should descend into the pool and the water be moved. Keep this remarkable scene before your eyes while you meditate upon its mystic meaning.
1st. The miraculous pool in Jerusalem is an emblem of the spiritual healing in the waters of the Sacrament of Penance. In Greek this pool is called Probatica, or the sheep-pool, probably because the lambs were washed therein that were to be offered up in the sacrifices of the Jewish worship. St. Jerome asserts that the waters of this pool were dyed a reddish tint, on account, as some surmise, of the blood of the victims slain in the temple mixing in it at its source. Thus this pool affords an admirable type of that miraculous bath wherein the wandering, the sin-stained sheep of the Good Shepherd may be washed and purified; both the laver of regeneration, holy baptism, whose waters derive their healing efficacy from the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God, and also the Sacrament of Penance, wherein the sheep of God’s fold who have contracted stains subsequent to baptism may be cleansed anew, and thus rendered fit, rendered worthy to participate in the oblation and sacrificial feast of the New Testament. Now consider, my soul, with what reverence the multitude of sick regarded the pool in Jerusalem; with what exemplary patience they waited for days, weeks, even years until the moment should arrive when it should be granted them to go down into the healing waters, and with what gratitude those who were cured ever after contemplated that spring. Now you, who have, not once, but times innumerable, experienced the healing virtue of the Probatica pool of the New Testament, are so indifferent to this privilege that you grudge the slight effort, you cannot spare the short time required to go down into these saving waters; and seldom indeed do you cast a look of gratitude on the confessional into which you entered with a soul grievously sick, and whence you came out made whole of whatsoever infirmity you lay under.
2d. Consider that around the miraculous pool five porches were constructed, from which the sick persons could with greater ease and convenience step down into the healing water. So likewise in the spiritual Bethsaida, the holy Sacrament of Penance, there are five porches for the benefit of souls that are sick, five considerations, each and all of which cannot fail to urge the sinner to approach the sacrament, provided he reflects upon them seriously. In the first place, the consciousness of his own sinfulness is a means of facilitating the descent of the sinner to the mystic pool, the sacred tribunal of penance. If he were once thoroughly convinced of the hideous defilement of his soul, he would no more neglect to purify himself inwardly than he would to wash off any spot of mud he might perceive on his outward person. In the second place, the knowledge that after death there is no more place for repentance is an inducement to approach the tribunal of penance. A sick man, passing by a health resort, would assuredly stop and take the waters if he were informed that he would meet with no other in the course of his journey. The third inducement to do penance is the thought of the awful judgment, and the yet more awful torments of hell, which may be escaped by approaching the Sacrament of Penance. A criminal condemned to death who could obtain a reversal of his sentence and escape the gallows by throwing himself at the king’s feet and imploring pardon, would not deem it a very difficult matter to prostrate himself before his sovereign., The fourth inducement is the remembrance of the risk incurred by postponing the hour of repentance, or of leaving it until death is at hand. If one of the sick persons at the Probatica pool had not availed himself of the first opportunity of recovering his health, if he had waited for the next time the angel descended, when some other sufferer might easily be before him, should we not have thought he was out of his senses? Fifthly, the thought of the desolation and wretchedness of a state of sin, compared with the joy, the consolation, the peace of mind enjoyed by the repentant sinner, serves as a strong inducement to have recourse to the Sacrament of Penance. Surely the consciousness of their own miserable condition, and the sight of their former fellow sufferers coming out of the water whole and happy, were enough to make the sick who lay in the porches around the sheep-pool long earnestly to go down into the healing waters as soon as possible. Do you not feel the same desire? Reflect upon the five points enumerated above; they may prove profitable to you.
3d. Consider how much more abundant in graces the pool of the New Testament, i.e., holy penance, is than that of the Old Testament. We have seen how in the porches of the sheep-pool there lay a multitude of sick, suffering from various maladies; of blind, of lame, of deaf, of dumb, some a prey to fever, others to dropsy, all waiting for the moving of the water. Happy he who is the first to step into the water; those who come too late will all have to wait long, wait perhaps for years before they have another chance. Oh how infinitely greater are the advantages of the sick who desire their spiritual cure from the healing waters of penance! They are not limited as to time; they can come whenever they choose, and as many as will may come; they may one and all step down into the fount of healing, as soon as the angel of God, divine grace, calls them. And of a truth this grace, this call of grace is never lacking. We are daily invited, urged to do penance, yet how many hold back through indolence and stubbornness of will, not attempting to bathe in the healing flood! They seem to think that God must do all, that He must, so to speak, carry them down to the pool, for they forget the beautiful words of St. Augustine: “He who created thee without thyself will not save thee without thyself.” How do matters stand with you, my soul, in regard to this necessary co-operation on your part? Consider this well, and in conclusion lay this one thing to heart: Had you been standing beside the sheep pool in Jerusalem and had seen a sick man whom you could have helped to go down into the water, you would undoubtedly have given him your assistance. Now think how many, many sick souls there are to whom you can render aid . . . think of this, and act accordingly.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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