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'Christ healing the lame at the pool of Bethesda' – Pieter van Lint, circa. 1640Wikimedia Commons

(LifeSiteNews) — The station is in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles; it is one of the grandest of the Churches of Rome, and is enriched by the bodies of the two apostles, St. Philip and St. James the Less.


Be propitious, O Lord, to thy people and mercifully strengthen those by thy aid whom thou fillest with devotion to thee. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel 18:20-26

Thus saith the Lord God: The soul that sinneth, the same shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son: the justice of the just shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked do penance for all his sins, which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment and justice; living he shall live, and shall not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath done; in his justice, which he hath wrought, he shall live. Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live? But if the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? All his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered; in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, in and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die. And you have said: The way of the Lord is not right. Hear ye, therefore, O house of Israel: Is it my way that is not right, and are not rather your ways perverse? For when the just turneth himself away from his justice, and committeth iniquity, he shall die therein; in the injustice that he hath wrought, he shall die. And when the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness, which he hath wrought, and doeth judgment and justice, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth and turneth away himself from all his iniquities, which he hath wrought, he shall surely live, and not die, saith the Lord Almighty.

Let us not forget the ancient discipline of the Church during Lent. We should frequently be at a loss to understand her liturgy of this season unless we picture her to ourselves as preparing the public penitents for a re-participation in the mysteries.

But first, they must be reconciled with God, whom they have offended. Their soul is dead by sin; can it be restored to life? Yea; we have God’s word for it. The Lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel, which the Church began yesterday for the catechumens, is continued today for the benefit of the Public Penitents. “If the wicked do penance for all his sins, which he hath committed, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment and justice; living he shall live, and shall not die.” But his iniquities are upon him, and rise up against him, crying to heaven for eternal vengeance!

And yet, that God who knows all things and forgets nothing, assures us that he will not remember iniquities which have been redeemed by penance. Such is the affection of his fatherly heart, that he will forget the outrage offered him by his son, if this son will but return to his duty. Thus, then, our penitents are to be reconciled; and on the feast of the resurrection, they will be associated with the just, because God will have forgotten their iniquities; they themselves will be just men.

Thus it is that the liturgy, which never changes, brings frequently before us her ancient discipline of public penance. Nowadays, sinners are not visibly separated from the faithful; the Church doors are not closed against them; they frequently stand near the holy altar, in the company of the just; and when God’s pardon descends upon them, the faithful are not made cognizant of the grace by any special and solemn rite. Let us here admire the wonderful mercy of our Heavenly Father, and profit by the indulgent discipline of our holy Mother the Church.

The lost sheep may enter the fold at any hour and without any display; let him take advantage of the condescension thus shown him, and never more wander from the Shepherd who thus mercifully receives him. Neither let the just man be puffed up with self-complacency by preferring himself to the lost sheep: let him rather reflect on those words of today’s Lesson: “If the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity… the justices which he hath done shall not be remembered.”

Let us, therefore, tremble for ourselves, and have compassion on sinners. One of the great means on which the Church rests her hopes for the reconciliation of sinners is the fervent prayers offered up for them by the faithful during Lent.


Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to John 5:1-15

At that time: There was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem a pond, called Probatica, which in Hebrew is named Bethsaida, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick, of blind, of lame, and of withered, waiting for the moving of the water. And the Angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water, was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under. And there was a certain man there, that had been eight-and-thirty years under his infirmity. Him, when Jesus had seen lying, and knew that he had been now a long time, he saith to him: Wilt thou be made whole? The infirm man answered him: Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond; for, while I am coming, another goeth down before me. Jesus saith to him: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole; and he took up his bed and walked. And it was the Sabbath that day. The Jews therefore said to him that was cured: It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed. He answered them: He that made me whole, he said to me: Take up thy bed, and walk. They asked him, therefore: Who is that man that said to thee, ‘Take up thy bed, and walk?’ But he that was healed, knew not who it was; for Jesus went aside from the multitude standing in the place. Afterwards Jesus findeth him in the temple, and saith to him: Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee. The man went his way, and told the Jews that it was Jesus that had made him whole.

Let us return to our penitents of the ancient discipline of the Church; those of the present day, and we ourselves, can easily make a practical application of the reflections suggested by the Gospel.

We have just been told by the prophet that God is ever ready to pardon a penitent sinner. But how is this pardon to be administered? Who is to pronounce the sentence of absolution? The answer is given in our Gospel. He that had been eight and thirty years under his infirmity is a figure of the inveterate sinner; and yet he is made whole, and recovers the use of his limbs. How has the cure been wrought? First of all, the infirm man says to Jesus: I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me in the pond. The water would have cured him; but observe, he has need of some man to lead him to the water. This Man is the Son of God, and he became Man in order to heal us.

As Man, he has received power to forgive sins; and before leaving this earth, he gives that same power to other men, and says to them: Whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them. (John 20:23) Our penitents, then, are to be reconciled with God by virtue of this supernatural power; and the infirm man, who takes up his bed and walks, is a figure of the sinner, whose sins have been forgiven him by the Church, by the divine power of the Keys.

In the third century, a heretic named Novatian taught that the Church has not the power to forgive sins committed after baptism. This doctrine was condemned by the Councils and the Holy Doctors of the Church; and in order to offer to the faithful some outward expression of the power given to the Son of Man of forgiving sins to such as repent, there was painted on the walls of the places, where the Christians used to assemble, the infirm man of our Gospel, walking with his bed upon his shoulders.

This consoling symbol is frequently met with in the frescoes which were painted, even in the age of the martyrs, in the Roman catacombs. They show us how the early Christians were taught to understand this passage of the Gospel, which the Church, now so many centuries ago, has assigned to this day.

The water of the Probatica was also a symbol; and here our Gospel conveyed a special instruction to the catechumens. It was by water that they were to be made whole, and by water endowed with a supernatural virtue. The miraculous pond of Jerusalem could only cure the body, and that at rare intervals, and the favor could only be conferred upon a single individual; but now that the angel of the Great Counsel has come down from heaven and sanctified the waters of the Jordan, the Probatica is everywhere; it is giving health to the souls of men, without any limitation either of time or number. Man is the minister of this grace; but it is the Son of God, become the Son of Man, that works by the human minister.

Let us also consider the multitude of sick, who as the Gospel tells us, were waiting for the moving of the water. They represent the various classes of sinners who are seeking, during this holy time, to be converted to their God. There are the sick, or, as the Latin word has it, the languid; these are the tepid, who never thoroughly give up their evil habits: they are the blind; these are they whose spiritual eye is dead: there are the lame, who limp and falter in the path of salvation: and lastly, there are the withered, who seem incapable of doing a single good action.

All are waiting for the favorable moment. Jesus will soon be with them, and will say to each of them: “Wilt thou be made whole?” Let them answer this question with love and confidence, and they will be healed.

Bow down your heads to God.

Graciously hear us, O God, and manifest the light of thy grace to our souls. Through Christ our Lore Amen.

Let us address ourselves to the heavenly Physician of our souls, in these words of the Triodion of the Greek Church.

(Feria VI. Hebdomadæ I. Jejuniorum.)

Do thou, O Lord, whose Passion has merited for us the deliverance from our passions, grant that my carnal affections may be quenched by the virtue of thy divine Cross, and that I may contemplate thy holy Resurrection.

O Fount of purity, most merciful Savior, preserve us by the merit of this our Fast. Behold us here prostrate before thee. Disdain not our uplifted hands, O thou the sovereign Lord of the Angels, that didst stretch forth thy hands on thy Cross for all mankind.

The snares of the enemy have involved me in darkness: enlighten me, O Christ, who, when hanging on the Cross, didst obscure the sun, and bring to thy Faithful the rays of pardon. May I walk in the light of thy commandments, and, being purified, come to the brightness of thy saving Resurrection.

Thou, O my Savior, and Christ! hanging like a vine on the wood of the Cross, didst enrich the whole earth with the wine of immortality. Therefore do I cry unto thee: I was miserably blinded by the intoxication of sin, but thou didst bestow upon me the sweet refreshment of true compunction: grant me, now, the strength that I may fast from sinful pleasures, for thou art a good and merciful God.

O wonderful power of thy Cross! It was thy Cross that made the plant of abstinence to bloom in the Church, after having uprooted the old intemperance of Adam in Eden. From the intemperance came death upon mankind; but from the other, the ever pure stream of immortality flowed upon the world, for from thy Side, as from a Found of Paradise, there streamed thy life-giving Blood, mingled with Water, and from these have all creatures received life. Therefore do we beseech thee, O God of Israel, to grant us, in thy great mercy, that we may experience the sweet delights of Fasting.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Guéranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.