The man in the gospel and the life of the saint display two possible responses to adversity.
The first is the man in the gospel. He had been sick for 38 years, not 40. Jesus asks him the simplest possible yes/no question. Do you want to be healed? Instead of answering the question, he begins to unreal the excuses for why he is still there. Jesus responses with three simple commands: get up, take your mat, and walk. Jesus does not touch him. He does not help him up. He commands him.
The man in the gospel has settled into his place, as miserable as it is. It's what he knows.
Contrast that with the saint whom we celebrate today. St. Patrick was captured and spent his time in what is now Ireland as a slave. He could have spent the rest of his life soaking the the trauma, and using it as an excuse for anything and everything. Instead, he returns to the people who mistreated him and uses the knowledge of the language and culture that he would have acquired there as a slave to evangelize them.
It seems to me that when we have adversity in life we have two options. We can be the man by the pool. We can lay there and make excuses for why our situation is not our fault. There may even be great truth in what we say, but if we can't answer yes to the question do you want to be healed it is still an excuse.
Or we can follow the example. We can learn from the adversity. We can allow God's grace to transform it, allow God to use our suffering to help others to build up the kingdom.
If you choose to do the former, don't be surprised when God uses tough love on you. If you do the latter, you will be constantly amazed at what God can accomplish in and through you.
St. Patrick, pray for us.
Today I celebrate my last St. Patrick's Day as the pastor of historic St. Patrick's in Church Hill. It has been an honor to serve one year as administrator, and six as pastor. Each time I walk into the Church I am reminded of the more than a century and a half of people who have prayed in that spot through the Civil War and both World Wars.