February 22, 2009


I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home. – Mk 2: 11

The people anxious to hear Jesus are blocking the entrance. They have come close, but now no one else can get close. Is this a paradigm of the Church? While we gather to listen to Jesus, are we simultaneously blocking access to Him? Have we created a huddle, with rear ends to outsiders, instead of functioning like John the Baptist? In particular, are we blocking those who may be paralyzed in spirit?

When our Lord introduces the element of sin, He is doing more than just reflecting the common idea at the time that disease was a punishment for sin: He is telling us that sin paralyzes, & that in more ways than one. The net result of sin is that we become isolated from God & from others, sometimes in subtle ways. Depending upon the enormity of our sin, it can paralyze our souls.

What sin does is cripple the child of God within us. What is unable to walk is the human person who is made in the image of God. This idea is conveyed by a fairly loose translation of the Aramaic word “trespass” in the Our Father: “Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.”

The Scribes, of course, are there to protect the divine prerogative. Anyone who is not God attempting to forgive sins is arrogating to oneself the power of God; hence, blasphemy. They seem to think God is constantly concerned about people infringing on His turf. Actually, they are saying more about themselves than they are about God.

If sin alienates us from our child of God identity, then forgiveness restores it. Forgiveness of sins & rising & walking are flip sides of the same coin. Forgiveness of sins gives us the power to walk again in the company of God & of others.

A young man had recently gone through the painful experience of a divorce & saw himself as a major failure. When he went to Church, he would sit on the back row nearest the door so as to be the last in & first out. It wasn’t because of what others were thinking, but of what he was thinking about himself. The sermon one Sunday was about forgiveness & the elderly priest was talking about how people could rise out of their sins, that the child of God is never completely paralyzed. After communion, a soloist sang a haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace.” At the end however, the old priest said “I’m not a wretch & neither are you. We are, all of us, a child of God.” So he began moving down the aisle & shouted, “This is my recessional song!” & began pointing at people in pew after pew saying, “You are a child of God, & you, & you….” When he did this to the young man, he could not stop the tears. After everyone had left, he got up, walked out, & went back home.

We tie knots to our failures so tight we can barely breathe. We know we have to untie those knots, but we do not know how. Sometimes we untie them slowly; other times it is a swift blow that frees us. An unlikely Jesus comes out of nowhere & wields the words of freedom. We are “unparalyzed” & on our feet, knowing that forgiveness & walking are the same thing. AMEN!