Beware of False Dilemmas

Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent

Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Jesus asks the infirm man lying near the pool, “Do you want to be well?” He answers, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” The best early Greek manuscripts of John’s Gospel do not contain the verse (John 5:4) and many modern Bibles omit it, but this ancient passage explains what the surrounding verses imply: “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.

The afflicted man perceives only two possibilities, a dilemma; either be healed by being the fastest into the water or continue in his infirmity. The first path is impossible and the second leaves him miserable. The man is tempted toward despair yet he remains patiently near the pool. And there he encounters Jesus who reveals a new, third way he had not imagined, a better option he had not seen. Jesus says to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk,” and immediately the man arises cured.

Beware of accepting false dilemmas in life. They can take many forms. Should I keep on being late into the water or give up on ever being cured? Should I ignore the Church’s teaching or be unhappy for the rest of my life? Should I keep on sinning and confessing or give up on my fight against habitual temptation? Should we allow this pandemic to totally destroy our economy or just let everybody die? Realize that the Lord can deliver us through ways we are not perceiving. When facing a painful “either-or”, an intolerable Trolley Problem, ask Jesus to reveal a third track. What if Jesus can heal my legs? What if following the Church’s teaching will lead to both my holiness and my joyful peace? What if my necessary resolutions and humble appeals for Christ’s saving grace can lift me up from my struggle? What if, in the near future, more treatments, testing, and technologies will allow us to save both lives and livelihoods?

Do not despair of your deliverance. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. … Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 3:20)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: