February 19, 2012
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday's gospel passage recounts the story of Jesus' cure of a paralytic. We must not be distracted by the ingenious efforts of the paralytic's friends to lower him through the roof because they could not get through the crowd. After all, this story is about salvation, not engineering!
Jesus seems to have sought out paralytics because his miracles are so often for their benefit. This makes good sense when we realize that the miracles of Jesus were intended to show that he came to liberate and therefore people with "frozen" muscles were prime candidates for illustrating this.
The story also makes it clear that the real liberation brought by Jesus is spiritual and eternal, which is revealed when Jesus declares that the paralytic's sins are forgiven. This is the only liberation that we absolutely must have. Cure of a physical ailment is most desirable but it is only a temporary relief.
The scribes are shocked and scandalized to hear Jesus proclaim forgiveness of sins. Instead of rejoicing to hear that this wonderful power is now available, they choose to cling to their own narrow interpretation of religion. Human knowledge alone is ultimately pessimistic.
We are all in so many ways victims of paralysis in the sense that we find it very difficult to realize our potential. Low self-esteem, expressed usually in our fear of trying something new or of making a mistake, not only denies others the benefit of our gifts but also contributes to our own unhappiness. The only solution to this dilemma is our willingness to trust the goodness that God has put in our lives--a goodness that is revealed to us by the gift of faith.
This gift of faith is intended to do far more than merely help us accept the words of the creed. Its real purpose is to enable us to trust the goodness that comes to us from God, but also from loving persons and from the beauty of God's creation. Thus, faith enables us to see the often hidden goodness in life--a goodness that is sometimes hard to discern but which is always available to those who are looking for it. The effect of this experience of goodness is to liberate us and thus to enable us to let go of the evil and hurt that are also a part of every life.
This power of faith in our lives is not something that we can discover by simply wishing for it. Like the paralytic in this story, we too need to count on friends who are usually more than willing to help us to meet Jesus and to hear those precious words: "Your sins are forgiven," and, "Rise, pick up your mat and walk." When this happens, we will gladly join others in declaring, "We have never seen anything like this."
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.