There is such a strong message in the lectionary readings today of the necessity of trust – and reasons to do so even when our patience is wearing thin. It is the psalm that shakes me awake right at the beginning, declaring: God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in distress. Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea. (Ps. 46:2-3)
What follows in the gospel is the reminder to never give up. It’s the story of the man who was ill for a long time – waiting 38 years at the healing pool of Bethesda for help. (JN 5:1-16) I always have trouble with that gospel passage because it seems to me unconscionable that there is no one who notices this man who needs help. I try to see that there might be more to the story when Jesus arrives and asks him “Do you want to be well?” That makes me wonder if something more than his physical infirmity is keeping him from the pool. Maybe he just needs to admit his need for help or to trust the help that is available to him. It’s interesting that he doesn’t answer Jesus with a resounding “YES!” as do all the others in the gospels to whom Jesus puts that question. What he does say is that there is no one to help him. So Jesus does.
The message I see here is that God is always at the ready – no matter what – if we don’t give up and if we are willing to speak our needs. The example (38 years!) seems extreme but perhaps some of us need all that time to wake up and/or give in totally.
Then there’s the second half of the story that opens up several more questions, but that’s a conversation for another day…