The Prophet Isaiah makes a amazing pronouncement in this Sunday’s First Reading when saying:” Thus says the LORD: … It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.” What an introduction to one of the themes of this last Sunday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Forgiveness of sins together with healing and friendship are significant topics of this week.
From the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark we read this great story of the paralytic and his friends. After the extensive healings of the first chapter: the man with the unclean spirit, Peter’s mother in law, the many people who followed Jesus looking for some sort of cure, and even the healing of a leper. This week’s 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 friends. Jesus is teaching in a house, crowded with people. Four friends want to bring their paralyzed buddy to the Lord, but they can’t get near the door. So, they climb up onto the roof, haul the poor guy up, then pull apart the roof making a hole right over where Jesus was. Jesus’ response to the incident is to commend the friends for their faith and then to forgive the paralytic. When some 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 lame is forgiven, healed and he leaves carrying his mat.
In the ancient world paralysis was seen as resulting from sin. We now know that this is not true, at least not directly. In the case of this healing, the man is paralyzed by sin, the same way sin can paralyze us today. Sin can exercise such force over us that we feel incapable of movement. A person’s self worth can be so torn down, feeling incapable of approaching healing. “How can I go to confession?” someone asks. “I’ve destroyed a life, destroyed a marriage, destroyed my family?” Many times a person will say, “I want forgiveness, but I just can’t get up the courage to seek it. I can’t control temptations. I probably will sin again.” When we feel that way we are paralyzed by sin. We need healing. Physical healing, perhaps. Spiritual healing, certainly. Jesus gives the paralytic both physical and spiritual healing. How come? 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.
And now we come to the real heroes of the story, the paralytic’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 at the center of Christian friendship. It is a huge blessing to have friends willing to do whatever it takes to bring someone to the Lord. It takes a courageous friend to say to someone, caught up in the effects of sin, whether he/she caused the sin or is suffering from the sin of others: “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.” This gospel story tells us about the responsibility and the opportunity we have for one another. 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 midst of their darkness. When Jesus saw 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 become friends like that to others. A complete text of the readings at: http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/022209.shtml
With God’s Love and Blessings,