Being Well – A Lenten Reflection for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

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?” – John 5:6

Three days ago, I had been encouraged to join a few friends in my young adult group to do some community outreach. When my friend, Zack, first mentioned to me the nature of the activity, I wasn’t sure it was something I particularly felt comfortable doing. Yet there I was, finding myself in the company of five men, my brothers in the community, walking around the streets of West Baltimore. I was the token 5-foot-tall Asian girl, holding a white placard with the bold scribble “Romans 1:16” among a crowd of (tall) men who were carrying food items and water, vouching for my safety as we moved along. The area we visited was well-known to locals as “the other side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard,” which has historically been the dividing line between a booming Downtown and an underdeveloped black community.

Feeling quite unsure, but resting in the eagerness I felt in the company I was with, I began to open up as we greeted people we met along the streets who were hungry. While it was remarkable to me to simply see how many of them were in need, pretty soon it became apparent that more than food, what they needed was prayer, and people who truly stopped, looked them in the eye, and listened to their story.

As we handed quarter-pounders from McDonald’s, shook their hands, and hugged them, many of them trembled as they tried to answer our question, “Can we pray for you?”… “What would you like us to pray for?” They broke into tears and thanked us immensely for our gifts and our time.

I could not help crying myself – albeit on the inside. For I knew deep within, they weren’t the only ones needing healing. It hit me hard that these homeless people were in such dire situations, feeling helpless in fighting addictions, yet were so surrendered to the idea of “becoming well.” They were fully aware of their need and none of them hesitated to accept what we offered – whether it was food or prayer – they all wanted it and asked for it.

Most of the time, in my career and personal life, I don’t even know what I truly need. Neither do I ask for it. But today, I could hear Jesus persistently ask me, “Do you want to be well?”

Lord, help me to be attentive to what I truly need, and teach me to eagerly ask for it.

Chariz Peñalber 

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