Calming the Troubled Waters


Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, May 26, 2024

A verse from the Paschal Gospel stood out to me in a way I had never seen before. John writes, "He was in the world and though the world was made by him the world did not know him." The Logos, the Word of God has always been here loving and saving his creation even though we did not know it. And he remains forever the same kind-hearted and loving Lord who was born in a manger in Bethlehem, the "House of Bread."

Thinking about today's Gospel I also cannot help but remember Psalm 23. "He makes to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul." The poor paralyzed man had waited for the "troubling of the waters" for many years. What he did not recognize is that he was already in the "troubled waters" and his long-awaited salvation did not rely on the pool at all. The Word of God who has always been in the world and who, with His Father, is always busy recreating, healing, transforming and saving, was already at work in him. The long moments of waiting were actually preparing him for his healing.

He did not know that he was already in "troubled water" as he lay there. These waters were flowing just under the surface of his life. Think of the range of emotions he must have felt over those 18 years. Despair, anger, doubt, fear, grief, loneliness. I would venture to guess that over the length of time there were also moments of peace as he learned the hard lessons his disease had to teach him. I heard it said once that God will not allow us to move on until we learn all we have to learn from where we now are. From experience we may also come to know the fresh dew of God's unconditional mercy.

The German poet Rilke mused that we must learn to be comfortable with the questions of life. Joni Mitchell sang, "If you can wait and not get tired of waiting...then the earth is yours and everything that's in it." St. Paul tells us that he learned to become content in all things

Faith is always at rest no matter the circumstances.

I have learned a valuable lesson about how to navigate the troubled waters of life. When we are troubled and confused and we cannot see a way through and the answers seem just beyond our grasp, here is some good advice in the form of a question.

Can you sit still long enough for the water to become clear and the right answer to rise on its own? It will come in time, when the Lord wills and as he wills and when our hearts are open. Our Lord and His Father are always at work. Giving ourselves completely to the Lord and his mercy we leap into the unknown and suddenly the net appears.

The Paralytic's healing did not come from the troubled water. It came from the One who stilled the troubled waters of the Galilee and walked on them as on dry land. It came from the One who turned ordinary water into sacred wine and then into his precious blood. The troubled waters of this world are changed by Christ into still and peaceful waters. These are the waters of baptism, rebirth, renewal and refreshment.

Olivier Clement writes of this in THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM. If the water (the interior life) is allowed to become peaceful and clear, that is, our thoughts and emotions become still and quiet, and we seek the whisper from heaven, the face of Christ will appear on the. face of the water. The Psalmist writes of this, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.

Then we will have our answer. It is Christ. It is always Christ. Faith in the silence of God brings us home. Be still and know that I am God. We wait not for the troubling of the Water but for its stillness.

At the Pool of Bethesda Jesus revealed himself as he did at Jacob's Well as the Living Water. The troubled waters of life cannot heal us. Only the Living Water can do that. And where is this water to be found? Only in Him.