February 22, 2009, Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time B
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25, 2 Corinthians 1:18-22, Mark 2:1-12
Deacon Gregory Burch
Imagine this scene if you will: You live on a hill by Capernaum, where your gaze stretches south to the sun-sparkled waves of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has returned home. You are a paralytic. Through the faith and urging of your friends and family you are raised toward the blue sky and born on shoulders, through the dust of the crowd. They deliver you to the very feet of Jesus, where you lay, helpless, upon your mat. The Son of God, Jesus, the incarnate form of He who made heaven and earth, who conceived of you before conception and who shaped you in the womb, smiles upon you. With infinite love he looks down. As he speaks the breath of life issues from his lips, and he says: “Your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat and go home.”
As the crowd watches ….you just lay there. You don’t get up. You can, but insist that you cannot.
This is the position many of us find ourselves in over and over again. We become self-made paralytics who refuse to move, refuse to walk, because we cannot ask for forgiveness, or, when given, we cannot accept fully forgiveness. We cannot accept the free gift of love, that mends our wounds and makes us whole, frees us and sends us home.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we beat ourselves up, time and again, as if; my sin is the greatest shame of all time, my sin is the one that can never be forgiven.
How odd it is that we fail to seek and accept personal forgiveness, and yet the core of the Christian message is that Jesus came in order to make atonement possible.
Jesus Christ came into this world and lived among us to demonstrate God’s constant invitation to be enfolded by his love and compassion. God communicates his inmost life through the mission of Jesus. The purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry was precisely to forgive and take away our sins.
We all wrestle with our failings. Through human frailty we succumb to sin’s temptation and become alienated from God’s intention for us. We become spiritually crippled.
Sin is a signal that there is a brokenness in our life that keeps us from getting up and walking forward. The injury may take on many forms. Some experience a rupture in their relationship with God and loved ones when ties of trust and fidelity are strained and snap.
Many experience a spiritual palsy that causes their legs to weaken when they knowingly act against there own conscience. Others experience brokenness when they abuse the gifts of creation.
Jesus likens healing of body to the healing of soul, for when the hurt of sin cripples us, the disruption to our spirit paralyses our relationships and our own ability to love freely.
Perhaps forgiveness is so difficult for us to ask for and fully accept because we know how hard it is for ourselves to forgive. Who among us is not right now, estranged from someone ( we once loved?) for a hurt received that began with: a simple slight, or an angry word, a lie, a theft, an addiction. The events keep rolling round and round and our hurt grows and grows until forgiveness seems impossible. There comes a time when it is our own anger, hurt and inability to forgive that keeps us paralysed and trapped on a little mat. It is that black thing that we have created and carry that does us the most harm.
When we cling to our brokenness, and decline the free gift of healing, forgiving love, we are cut-off from the source of all goodness and continue to throw our life, our family and even our health into utter chaos.
This coming week we will open the doors to Easter as we enter the Lenten Season. Through reflection, prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can cleanse ourselves in a newness of life that springs from Christ himself.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us a startling claim to newness. A fresh start, once and for all.
God offers to love your brokenness back in to wholeness.
The first step to forgiveness is to express sorrow for your thoughts and actions and the first conviction is that the sacrament of Reconciliation is the primary way of obtaining forgiveness and a new beginning.
In this precious sacrament we receive, as a gracious gift of the father, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the ministry of the church, that reconciliation which is Christ, an inexhaustible source of compassion and healing love
Jesus bids us to rise, pick up our mat and go home. He heals the brokenness of our ways, and, as we shed the paralysis of sin through Reconciliation, we may walk anew with a strength that bears witnesses to his glory.
He calls us home. Home to this sacrificial table, the focus of our faith. Home to this family of Believers. Home to where we are forgiven as we forgive one another. So rise. Pick-up your mat, Jesus is calling you home.