Thursday, January 12, 2017

Seeking Jesus

By Colleen O’Sullivan

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.  After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”  Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?”  Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, “rise, pick up your mat and walk?’  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” - he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” (Mark 2:3-11)

Lord, may I always be as persistent in seeking you out as this paralyzed man and his friends.

James Tissot (French, 1836-1902).
The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof
(Le paralytique descendu du toit), 1886-1896,
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Public Domain
As I was pondering today’s Gospel reading, it struck me how often in the Gospels people have trouble getting to Jesus.  Here, as in many other instances, Jesus is surrounded by swarms of people, both inside this house in Capernaum and all around the building outside.   Later in his Gospel (5:25-34), Mark tells the story of a woman suffering greatly from hemorrhages.  Again, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd, but, in desperation, she reaches out and manages to just touch the hem of his robe, immediately experiencing healing.  On another day, Luke (18:35-43) tells the story of a blind man begging by the side of the road.  He cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  Jesus’ entourage tells him to be quiet, not to bother their leader.  They want Jesus to keep on going.  Fortunately, Jesus is more compassionate than they are and stops to talk with and heal this poor, suffering man. 

And happily for the paralyzed man in today’s reading, he has some very good, persistent friends.  They know how much this man believes that if he can just get to Jesus, he will be healed.  So, they size up the situation.  No way can they risk having him jostled by the throng of people gathered outside.  But they are determined, so they decide to lift the man, stretcher and all, to the roof, break through and put him down right in front of the Lord.  He is exactly where he wants and needs to be, in Jesus’ presence.  The Lord forgives the man’s sins and then, to try and prove a point to the scribes in the crowd, goes on and gives the man the ability to get up, move around and walk again.

There is much in this story to consider.  The scribes may have been the learned men of their day, but if they had to take a test based on logical thinking, they would fail miserably.  If, as they assert, only God can forgive sin, they are totally missing the “then” part of this “If, then” equation.  They are in the very presence of God, but their lack of insight keeps them from taking in the truth.

Jesus asks them which is easier – to forgive sin or to heal someone of physical infirmity?  The question that occurs to me isn’t that one; rather, which is the type of healing I most desire.  As we are reminded every month at the diocesan healing Mass, the only kind of healing anyone is assured of is inner healing or forgiveness.  A broken leg, heart problems, cancer – none of those have to keep you from Jesus.  But if your heart isn’t in the right place, that can be a major impediment to being close to the Lord.

It isn’t generally hordes of people who keep us from Jesus.  It’s the busyness of our lives, the refusal to set aside time to sit in the Lord’s presence or to pray.  It’s still very early in the year and not too late to make a resolution to set aside a block of time every single day to be with Jesus in prayer.

Sometimes we hesitate to approach Jesus because our sins leave us feeling ashamed and unworthy.  But I can’t think of a single instance in the Gospels where Jesus turned his back on anyone who sincerely wanted his help.  Our Lord is compassionate, merciful and forgiving, so seek him out and unburden yourself.

No comments: