Doubtless you are acquainted with the miracle of mercy which Jesus performed at the pool of Bethsaida. In one of the five porches to the pool lay a sick man who suffered from the palsy during thirty-eight years. For a long time he had waited in vain to be healed by the moving water. At certain times the water became agitated and whoever then first descended into it was healed of his infirmity.
The blind, the lame, the consumptive recovered their health in this water. But the palsied man had never succeeded in entering it at the right time.
One day the Saviour was passing through the porches in which a great crowd of sufferers were assembled. One of the poorest of these sad figures was the palsied man, and the heart of the divine Friend of men was filled with compassion for him. Jesus said to him: “Will you be made whole?” Ah, which one of these poor sufferers did not desire to be healed! The sick man looked up sadly at the kind Friend who put the question to him. He replied: “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond. For, whilst I am coming, another is going down before me.”
In the pitiful complaint can be heard the silent request: “Will you help me, good Master? In all the years of my suffering no one has shown me so much sympathy. Help me and guide me down into the water.”
But Jesus did not need to wait until the water moved; He did not need to help the sick man to the miraculous pond. In an earnest, sublime voice He spoke: “ Take up thy bed and walk.” And St. John, an eyewitness, relates: “Immediately the man was made whole: and he took up his bed and walked.” What happiness it was for this man to be perfectly well again after such a long illness! But when later Jesus met him again, He said to him: “Thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worst thing happen to thee.”
This beautiful story of the Gospel contains much food for wholesome thought. Let us first consider the means by which God sends us His aid. From this miracle which our Saviour worked we see that God can help man in all his needs directly, without employing any means. He requires no medicines to heal the body, no Sacraments to save the soul. The omnipotent words of Jesus restored strength and activity to the man‟s palsied body and at the same time healed his soul.
But God seldom helps us so directly, so miraculously as in this case; usually He offers us His aid, in an ordinary way, through the mediation of His consecrated servants, the priests, and through the mediation of grace; that is the Sacraments, the Sacramentals and prayers.
We have a beautiful example of such divine aid in the healing water of the pool of Bethsaida. The water was stirred by a mysterious power, and then it possessed the virtue of healing all infirmities. How did this happen? Whence did it derive this wonderful power to heal? St. John tells us: “An angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved.
And he that went down first to the pond, after the motion of the water, was made whole.” Thus, an angel was sent by God to bless the water. Through the angel God‟s power was imparted to the water which thus became an instrument of divine aid.
We can easily understand how all the sick in Palestine sought this miraculous water, how they crowded to the pond and had themselves carried down, how they longed for the water to move and with what zeal each tried to be the first to descend into the water to be healed by its power.
How good it would be for so many sick people, if there were such miraculous water today which would effect a certain cure of every illness! But the pond of Bethsaida was destroyed completely by the repeated devastations of Jerusalem. It was only in the year 1888 that its original site with the seven porches was discovered by chance; the site was exactly as it is described in the Gospel. But it no longer contains miraculous water, and the sick are no longer healed there as was the case formerly.
But, thank God, there is another holy water, one which is nearer to us and which possesses even greater healing power, I mean the holy water of the Catholic Church. The miraculous water at Bethsaida was only to be found in one place in the world and it possessed the power of healing at certain times only.
Its effects were confined to healing the body, and that only in the case of the few who were fortunate in descending into the pond when the water was moved by the angel. But the water which God also causes to be blessed and given the power of imparting grace, through His messenger, the priest, is to be found in every Catholic church: it can be taken thence to the home, and in this way we have it with its virtue by us always.
It retains its power to heal and helps not only the body, but protects and helps yet more our souls, in life and in death, for time and. eternity. Now, the aim of this little book is to give an account of this precious holy water. But first we shall consider a little the power to bless which has been bestowed on the Catholic Church which offers us this holy water in God‟s Name.