“It is the Sabbath and the law doesn’t allow you to carry your mat”

John 5:10

Thursday, 09 July 2020

John 5:5-13

After his healing, some of his peers confront the mat man. They tell him that it is the Sabbath and he is not supposed to be carrying his mat. It was forbidden to do any work on the Sabbath and, when taken to the extreme, even something like picking up a mat was not allowed! His mat, the symbol of his past, still seems to be an obstacle to him. Even though he can walk, the mat now becomes the focal point of his irritated peers, not his healing.

Healing is a process. It unfolds slowly. Recovery from physical sickness is gradual and can take time. So often we want a ‘quick-fix’ to our ailments. We live in an era where we want pills to work instantaneously. Emotional, psychological and spiritual healing can take a lot longer than physical healing. The mat man teaches us that healing is not always immediate but slow yet progressive. He shows us that the gift of patience is important, especially when we desire healing.

The reaction of the mat man’s peers teaches us a lesson too. Sadly, his peers could not celebrate his healing. They could not see him. They saw only his mat.

They put religious law before a human being. We see that happening in our own time too. How often don’t we falsely uphold the laws we choose to uphold over and above the good of human beings? How often are those who hold institutional power willing to sacrifice people so that their position and power is not threatened? The misuse of status, power and authority can often be the biggest obstacle to people’s healing. It also reveals a deep-seated insecurity and woundedness in those who use it at the cost of others.

Can I celebrate and support those who seek healing and are trying to change their lives? Do I see them as people, or do I define them by their ‘mats’? Do I tend to put religious law, power and authority before human beings?

Lord God,
Help me to become a true companion to those who seek healing. Give me the grace to be supportive and encouraging. If I have ever used my position, power, authority or the law to alienate and hurt another, I ask for your forgiveness.

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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