Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel reading is taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark. After the extensive healings of the first chapter –the man with the unclean spirit, Peter’s mother in law, the many people who crowded Jesus looking for some sort of cure, and even the healing of a leper- we come upon this wonderful story of the paralytic and his friends. The story is a lot deeper than a miracle story; it is a story of healing forgiveness, the power of the Lord, and the power of Christian friends[1].

We are all acquainted with the story. We’ve heard it over and over again: Jesus’ response to the incident is to commend the friends for their faith and then to forgive the paralytic. When the scribes complain that only God can forgive, Jesus notes that according to Isaiah a sign of the Messiah would be that sins would be forgiven and that, among other healings, the lame would walk. The man is forgiven and healed. He leaves carrying his mat.

Today our Lord doesn’t offer the man a choice. He gives him both physical and spiritual healing. Why? Because He is God’s Love come down to earth. He loves the man too much to allow him to continue suffering both spiritually and physically. He loves us too much to allow us to stay in pain. The sacrament of reconciliation is the sacrament of joy, the joy of healing received. The scribes couldn’t understand how Jesus could forgive and heal because they refused to expose themselves to the presence of God’s Love on earth. We are not doubters like the scribes. We are believers, believers in the power of Love, the Power of His Love.

And now we come to the real heroes of the story, at least the heroes this side of Jesus. We come to the paralytic man’s four friends. These four would do whatever it took to bring their friend to the Lord. Certainly they were pushed aside when they tried to enter the door. They probably were yelled at, insulted and mocked for climbing onto the roof and destroying it. But their determination to do what was the best for their friend, their determination to bring him to the Lord, was all that mattered.

This is what Christian friendship is. A true friend is willing to do whatever it takes to bring someone to the Lord. It is a huge blessing to have friends like that. It takes great courage to be a friend like that. How many times we come upon people wandering aimlessly in life. How many times we come upon people who are mired in their own self deprecation, mired in the effects of sin, whether they caused the sin or are suffering from the sin of others. It takes a courageous friend to say to someone, “Look, your killing yourself with drugs, with alcohol, with the way you treat other people. You don’t like who you’ve become. But you don’t have to stay suffering like this. Come to Jesus. Start new again and be happy.” It takes a lot of courage to be a friend like that. It takes a lot of courage to be a Christian.

The gospel story for today tells us about the responsibility and the opportunity we have for one another within our faith community and within the community of mankind. There are times that we are paralyzed by selfishness, fear, pride, greed or whatever. We might not realize the extent of our need. We might be unable or unwilling to do anything on our own behalf. We depend upon others to carry us to the Lord.

And there are times that we come upon others that need our strength and our faith to help them to see the Light of Christ in the middle of their darkness. There are many times that others need the power of our faith to sustain them and to carry them.

And when Jesus saw their faith, the faith of the four friends, he healed the paralytic. We pray today that we might not just have friends like that, but that we might be friends like that ■

[1] Sunday 22nd February, 2009, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25. Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you—Ps 40(41):2-5, 13-14. 2 Corinthians 1:18-22. Mark 2:1-12 [Chair of St Peter, Apostle].

Ilustration: St. John resting on Jesus's chest, Master Heinrich of Konstanz, C. 1320, Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris