“My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)
As far as church seasons go, I think it’s safe to say most of us prefer any other to Lent. With all the introspection, repentance, and self-denial, we don’t often look upon Lent as a joy filled and uplifting season, but then, often times, neither is life itself.
On the 25th of January, 2006 Barbara Mann lost her five children and two nieces in a tragic car accident, and later that night her father when he died of a heart attack upon hearing the news. When witnessing the worse imaginable tragedy that could befall a person, one can only be filled with doubt, confusion, anger and deep sorrow.
Ironically, our response to deep, inexplicable suffering is often to seek explanation. We philosophize: “Everything happens for a reason,” or “All things work together for good.” In our attempt to alleviate our own suffering from doubt and confusion we often do more harm to those whose suffering we should be sharing instead.
In John 5 Jesus shows us “a more excellent way.” When faced with a man who had been suffering continuously for thirty-eight years, Jesus wasn’t philosophical. He acted. He healed him. Not only that, he healed him by commanding the man to do something the religious authorities of the day considered unlawful.
Jesus’s message to us is that it is always lawful to do good, especially when faced with the suffering of another. Not only is it lawful, it is the only correct response to suffering, including our own. Are you doubting and confused? Do good always. Are you lonely and afraid? Do good always.
God is not some cosmic utilitarian moving pawns on his teleological chessboard to optimize his end game. He is a Wounded Healer who suffers for and with us. In healing the man beside the pool in the way he did, Jesus not only healed him, he took his future suffering at the hands of the religious leaders upon himself. Instead of persecuting the man for breaking the Sabbath, they persecuted Jesus.
In this somber season of Lent when we reflect upon the suffering of a broken world, and our part in it, let us remember the lesson of the Wounded Healer to do good always and “go and do likewise.” In doing so, we may find that Lent is as joyous a season as the others, for to run from the pain of suffering and sin would only be to flee from the joy that awaits us on the other side. Avoiding Lent would mean missing Easter.
Lord, enable us to do good always, no matter the season, that we may be wounded healers in a broken world.