Were you ever picked last for the team, whether on the playground, P.E., or gym class? I remember being on both sides, being picked last, and picking others to join and having to pick someone last. I much more preferred being chosen last than having to be in the situation to choose a classmate last because someone had to be in that position at some point, and it was often an agonizing situation. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus comes upon a man who has experienced an even worse situation.
This person has been in need of healing for thirty-eight years. Apparently, there was a limited time to get into the waters of the pool to experience the healing properties that it afforded, for each time the water stirred, while the man moved to get closer to and enter the water, “someone else gets down there before” him. This is worse than getting picked last, as he doesn’t in a sense even make the team!
But with Jesus, the last shall become first. Key ingredients are belief, faith, and a willingness to be healed. Jesus does not impose, even in the case of healing, Jesus invites. He asks the sick man, “Do you want to be well?” When the man in need of healing explains the limitations he has experienced in the past regarding getting to the pool, Jesus does not hesitate. Jesus commands him to rise, pick up his mat and walk. The man is no longer the one picked over, the one ignored, the one unseen. The sick man encounters Jesus and is healed by his word and restored.
Jesus approaches us in the same way that he encountered the sick man by the pool of Bethesda in today’s Gospel. Jesus meets us in our need, where we are, no matter our station in life. He does not leave us on the outside looking in, he does not leave us wondering if we are loved or if we belong. He does not only come to encounter us but if we are willing, to empower us to be about the mission given to us by his Father. Jesus gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Each and every one of us is a gift from God and has been graced with something to contribute to others, something unique to help make the kingdom of God a reality.
I invite you to enter a place of silence and stillness, without and within. Settle into a place with no or little distractions, breathe in deep and exhale a few times, then close your eyes. See your self as you are in your present seated position, breathing, experiencing your shoulders relaxing, and just being still. Then notice Jesus walking toward you as he did with the man at the pool of Bethesda. Does Jesus remain standing, does he sit beside you, or kneel before you? As he assumes whatever posture, allow your thoughts to reflect on what you need. As you are pondering, does Jesus ask you a question? What does he ask or what does he say?
Jesus is present, right here and right now, for you. There are no boundaries, no limitations, only those you impose on your self. Share with Jesus your need. You are no longer misunderstood, left out, or picked last. Jesus is present. Embrace the moment of knowing you are loved, heard, and that not only do you belong but you have a significant part to play in the kingdom of God.