On the Cure of the Man Who Had Been Infirm for Thirty-Eight Years.
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 Cure of the Man Who Had Been Infirm for Thirty-Eight Years.
Go to-day in spirit to the spot where once before you found a subject for meditation, the miraculous pool at Jerusalem. There amidst the multitude of sick folk lying under the porches around that healing fount, you will see one unhappy individual who for thirty-eight years has been waiting, longing for help and restoration to health. One might almost expect that after so long a time he would have given up all hope of cure, that he would perhaps in despair have resigned himself to the disconsolate thought: There is no more chance of help for me. But all at once a stranger approaches him, a man of singularly dignified appearance, who asks him: “Wilt thou be made whole?” Realize, my soul, the feelings of the sick man, half astonished, half hopeful, at having this strange question addressed to him.
1st. According to the exposition given by St. Cyril, this question was intended to revive the desire of the sick man for cure and inspire him with fresh courage, the courage to hope that after so protracted a period of apparently hopeless affliction relief was yet in store for him, yea, that he might even implore it as a miracle from the stranger who spoke so kindly to him. This compassion on Jesus’ part is not without its effect. His words lead the man who is infirm to anticipate speedy help. He tells Him of his forlorn condition, complaining that he has no man, when the water is troubled, to put him into the pool, and he evidently expects our Lord to render him that service. This sick man represents on the one hand the miserable, helpless condition of all mankind, who for long years, for centuries lay spiritually sick with no one to render them any assistance until at length Christ came; and on the other hand, he presents a touching image of the hardened sinner, who for years has laid on a spiritual sick-bed. But alas for those who are sick with a spiritual malady; they cannot plead the same excuse as the man in the Gospel; they cannot say: “Sir, I have no man,” (St. John v. 7.) For, as St. Augustine says, we cannot make these words our own, because we know Jesus, we have Him who became man for our salvation; because we can whenever we choose step down into the healing waters of penance; because at any time we can find men who are ready to help us, our Pastors and Confessors. You, my soul, have no right to complain: “Sir, I have no man,” and therefore lay these pathetic words to heart in respect to others. You know many souls who for long years have been the slaves of sin, whom no one warns, for whom no one prays; they have no man in truth who interests himself on their behalf. Here is an opportunity for you; warn them, admonish them, pray for them; voluntary penance, under taken by some pious soul unostentatiously and secretly for some confirmed sinner, has not infrequently brought about a miraculous cure such as that on which we meditate to day. Again; one of these hardened sinners comes to you in the confessional. Are you as kind, as patient towards him, as anxious to inspire him with confidence as was Jesus to the man who had been infirm for thirty-eight years? Woe betide you if in mistaken zeal you repel one such forsaken soul, if you at once give up all hope of reforming him, if you do not, despite all adverse appearances, make at least one effort to help him. Unless you do this, the complaint of the luckless sinner, “Sir, I have no man,” will one day be your condemnation.
2d. Consider the signal compassion which Jesus shows for this sick man, who, be it observed, brought his malady on himself by his sins. He does not content Himself though this would have been in itself a great charity with the ordinary means of cure, plunging him into the healing water, but by a special miracle He makes him perfectly whole. How often our Lord has wrought a similar miracle of mercy on some sinner who for years has been enslaved by the sickness of the soul! Suddenly, unexpectedly, He touches the obdurate heart, and by means of a simple sermon from the lips of one of His servants, by means of some affliction or calamity, He, so to speak, forcibly drags the sinner, in his last hour perhaps, on his very death-bed, out of a state of mortal sin. Therefore see that you never lose hope in regard to any soul, as long as life remains; exercise, after the example of our Lord, the utmost patience and charity; and when you feel inclined really to despair, then place all your trust on the mercy of God; if all your words, all your efforts are fruitless, then have recourse to prayer; with tears and sighs appeal to the all-powerful God, and very often you will see wonders worked. “However hardened a nation may be,” thus St. Bernard wrote to Pope Eugene III., “even if it have a heart of stone, yet God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (St. Matt. iii. 9.) The prophet of old exclaimed: “Who knoweth but He will return and forgive, and leave a blessing behind Him?” (Joel ii. 14.) Remember this, my soul, and do not weary in your prayers, your labors, your groans on behalf of sinners.
3d. Consider the words which our Lord addressed to the man when he was healed: “Arise, take up thy bed and walk” (v. 8), and when he had done so, our Lord added: “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more lest something worse happen unto thee.” (v. 14.) This sentence affords abundant material for meditation. Three things are required on the part of one who has been made spiritually whole, if he would preserve his spiritual health and not fall into the sin of relapse. He must rise from the state of sin, he must renounce entirely the sin which has been forgiven him, he must carefully avoid it for the future. Furthermore he must take up and carry away the bed on which he has lain sick that is, hold aloof from all occasions of sin, remove all that may tempt him to sin otherwise all will be of no good. Finally he must walk, that is, he must daily labor, struggle, fight against long-indulged habit, and go forward manfully on the path of that virtue which is opposed to his besetting sin. Unless he do this, if he fall back into the same sin, woe betide him, for a worse thing will happen to him; the sin of relapse brings in its train transgressions more numerous and more heinous, and also chastisements of a severer nature. Let your thoughts dwell on this. If you are a Priest, do not be satisfied with merely making the sinner whole through the power of remission committed to you, but speak to him, as Jesus spoke to the man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Act like a good physician; try to prevent your patient from being again attacked by the same malady; do not rest until he has removed the occasion of sin to a distance; instruct him how to walk in the way of justice, and ask yourself seriously if after all you have not often been failing in your duty in regard to this second part of what your office requires of you, as one who has the cure of souls.
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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