Saturday, February 18, 2012


We usually feel compassion for people who are paralyzed.  Underneath that empathy we think about how horrible it would be to never walk freely, drive a car or rise up from bed each morning.  The paralyzed man in the gospel might bring up similar thoughts in us.  How sad that he could not walk up to Jesus. It’s too bad he had to have help getting to Jesus.  We might even get angry that the crowd of people listening to Jesus didn’t cooperate with this strange group struggling to get to Jesus.  But Mark is not asking us to feel anything.  He wants us learn something, he wants us to observe what Jesus does.           

You see, there is more than one kind of paralysis a person can experience.  The crowd of people was so spellbound by Jesus’ preaching, they couldn’t rouse themselves to make room so that the paralyzed man could get to Jesus.  They were, in a sense, paralyzed.  You could say that the scribes were paralyzed by their closed mindedness.  They didn’t like what Jesus had to say.  They thought Jesus was a blasphemer because he said, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”   

Jesus asked them, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic your sins are forgiven?  Or to say rise, pick up your mat and walk?”  They believed that only God could forgive sins. The reason they held this belief was that if forgiveness was offered there needed to be some kind of proof that the burden of sin had been lifted.  So, without answering the question, Jesus gave them the proof they needed, that he had the power to forgive sins merely by telling the man to rise and walk. 
This had never been seen by anyone before!  It proved that Jesus had the love to heal the paralyzed man.  It also proved that he had the divine power to forgive the sin that caused him to be paralyzed.  No questions were asked.  No judgments were made.  Jesus just lovingly told him, “Child, your sins are forgiven, rise, pick up your mat and walk.”  God’s grace has the power to heal the afflictions of the flesh and to forgive sins.  To this day, it is difficult for us to believe these things are possible, especially when we know that our own sins have caused us to be spiritually paralyzed.

Sin has a profound effect on our lives.  Knowledge of our sins invades our thoughts and so we distract ourselves with whatever numbs the pain.  Those distractions are painkillers with spiritual side effects that render us unable to move towards the healing we need.  Sin causes us to be in a state of paralysis God’s mercy can heal.  We need to hear the voice of Jesus Christ say, “Child your sins are forgiven, rise, pick up your mat, and walk.”
There is a way for us rise up from being spiritually paralyzed by our sins.  God’s mercy is available in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In the grace of absolution the sins we confess are taken away from us.  Unfortunately, though, in our spiritual paralysis we find it impossible to get ourselves to Christ.  What causes this inability to rise up?  I’ve heard it said that there was a priest here once who told people that it’s not necessary to go to confession.  That’s not true.  I don’t mean to call the man a liar, but clearly there was some inaccurate information spoken.  Our lives are very busy and we don’t feel that we have the time to get confession, so we just tell God we’re sorry.  Daily examination of conscience, and speaking the words “I’m sorry” are very good things.  We believe God is very forgiving.  But it is through the grace of absolution that we are truly given the ability to rise up and walk.

This brings us to the four men who carried the paralyzed man to Jesus. He could not do this on his own.  He needed their help.  The four men had the faith to get him to Jesus, and they wouldn’t let anything stop them, not the crowd, not even the house where Jesus was.  They took the paralyzed man to the roof, they tore off the grass, they dug through the mud and they lowered him to the floor at Jesus feet.  That was their mission.  Who are these four men?  They are the Church.  The Church has a mission to make it possible for people who are frozen in their sins to receive God’s healing love. 
I stand before you as one of those men.  I stand before you as one who has been given the ability to rise up from my own paralysis caused by sin.  I stand before you, also, in persona Christi, in the person of Jesus Christ.  I stand before you to say that the miracle of healing happens every time I raise my hands in that gentle gesture of blessing and say, “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins.  Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Some people say that Catholics have “lost their understanding of what sin is” and that’s why they don’t go to confession anymore.  Perhaps the real truth is that sin has a paralyzing effect on us.  We know what sin is.  We feel its impact when others hurt us.  We feel the weight of the sins we commit against others.  Sin hardens our hearts to the point in which it becomes almost impossible to seek God’s mercy. 
But the Church has been given the mission of offering the healing grace we need.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we hear Jesus Christ tell us to rise from the paralyzing effects of sin, and shame, division, anger, resentment and scorn.   “And I absolve you from your sins.  Rise up, walk in peace, my healing love has set you free.”

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