The Probatic Pool, marble relief, Giovanni Marchiori, early 1700s, Church of Saints Simon and Jude, Venice
Today is the feast of the Archangel Raphael, who is known as the “angelical physician”, not only for his healing works in the Book of Tobias, but also for his deeds as recounted in John chapter 5, one of the most moving narratives in scripture. It was St. Raphael the Archangel who would agitate the waters once per year at Bethesda which would then heal the first person to touch the waters. In John 5, even though St. John is spare in his prose, one can immediately hear the anguish of the man who tells Our Lord that he has tried every year for thirty-eight years to be healed of his infirmity, but because he has no one to help him, he never makes it to the pool in time. And yet, this man has kept the faith and persevered.
Our Blessed Lord healed the man, and afterward, finding the man at the Temple, Jesus told him, “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.”
Mercy is inextricably tied to renunciation of sin. The “worse thing” that would come from presuming upon God’s Mercy and NOT ceasing the sinful activity (or at least having a firm, immediate purpose of amendment) is ETERNAL DAMNATION. Thirty-eight years with a horrific physical infirmity is NOTHING compared to all of eternity in hell in unceasing torment, never, ever to see God, and knowing how being damned was 100% one’s own choice, and thus completely unnecessary.
None of us have to wait for St. Raphael to swoop in (wheeeee!) as depicted above, and then win a foot race. All we have to do is enter The Church and go to Confession, wherein the waters of Baptism are perpetually and inexhaustibly available, and the Blood of Christ removes every stain of sin.
St. Raphael, pray for us.
Christ, have mercy on us.