Thursday, July 02, 2015

Pick Up Your Stretcher and Go Home to God

By Beth DeCristofaro

Jesus knew what (the scribes) were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. (Matthew 9:4-7)

Merciful Father, I come to you in gratitude, thanking you for life, my life.  Healing Jesus, I place myself and my sinfulness before you, asking you to heal me again to wholeness in you.  Spirit of grace and courage, fill me with a holy longing for your presence in all my thoughts, actions and desires.  I offer you my shortcomings and my sincere desires to walk always in the light of God.

With all of the abundant rainfall we’ve had and the many warm days, I’ve been contesting with weeds in my yard for weeks now.  In fact, the view out my back window looks more like the tropics than the D.C. suburbs.  Splendid vines hang in sheets of varied greens from trees.  They cover bushes, wrap around each other and are growing so profusely that soon we will be able to swing from yard to yard.   It’s a love / hate relationships between us.  I have a grudging respect for the tenacity and adaptability of weeds.  They cling to life in the thinnest layer of sand on my patio or the tiniest grain of dirt in the cracks in walls.  Even as I ruthlessly pull and dig I admire their survival abilities.

Sins can be like this.  We find ourselves surrounded, covered and perhaps overwhelmed by sin.  It is in the world and within us, as Jesus saw in the paralytic man.  Sins root deep, planted by choice or bad judgement.  Some cover the light of grace, we think, just as weeds block the sunlight and kill azaleas or crops.  Weeds and sin can choke out what is native to us, vulnerability, openness, relationships, faith, and hope.  Some are even quite pretty so we find worth in holding onto them.  Even those sins we do not acknowledge or do not recognize keep us from our true relationship with Jesus because they become central rather than Jesus.  Sin can also cause us to fear that we are not deserving of Jesus’ grace and presence.  It isn’t sin, however.  We don’t deserve.  Rather we are gifted, given and loved.  Weed-like, sin gets in our way of believing the truth that we are loved and Jesus has defeated sin in a final, victorious gift of Himself. 

Jesus did not ask the paralytic what sins he had committed.  We don’t know if he was a righteous man or an abusive father.  Jesus knew his human frailty and knew that his sin called for the greater “cure” than paralysis; curing his relationship to himself and to God held a magnificent reward.  Jesus’ forgiveness brought the man back into right relationship with his Creator.  Just as his legs bore weight for the first time in years, his spirit was weightless in grace with God.  Indeed this was the most important of Jesus’ healings on that day. 

Consider closely the sins which keep you from right relationship with Jesus and bring yourself before him – ask help from your friends in the Communion of Saints to carry you if you feel paralyzed with the weeds of your sin.  Seek out the Confessional.  Look into the eyes of Jesus and hear him say “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then take up your stretcher and dance in the light of his love for you, his special brother, his unique sister.  Dance in the joy that believes his cross and resurrection was for you.

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