Today’s gospel reading is one of my favorite passages as it is filled with drama and it says a lot to us. This passage where Jesus heals the paralyzed man and is taken from Mark’s gospel, chapter 2, and it occurs right after Jesus had cured a leper. You may recall that Jesus sternly ordered him not to say anything to anyone about his cure. The Bible tells us that the man went away and started talking about what had happened freely to everyone he met. Mark continues that when Jesus got back to Capernaum, word got around that he was there, and that so many people gathered that there was no room even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them.
There was a paralyzed man who must have heard about Jesus from the leper who was cured that Jesus heals, and so he too wanted to be healed, but because he could not walk himself, he was carried by some men. Now when they got to where Jesus was, there was no room, and so the paralyzed man could not find his way before the Lord; or rather could he? So determined were his friends — I call them friends even though the Bible does not say that they were. But they must have been friends of this paralyzed man to have gone through all this trouble with him and for him.
Anyway, the paralyzed man and his friends were determined to get before Jesus and so the four men climbed up onto the roof, they stripped off part of the roof, and then they lowered the paralytic before Jesus. Mark makes a very interesting statement. He writes, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, my child, your sins are forgiven.” There are couple interesting things here to note:
- There was one person who was obviously in need of healing, but yet Mark writes, “seeing their faith.”
- The second interesting thing was that the man lay paralyzed in a stretcher. Why did Jesus seem to ignore his physical need for healing and said to him your sins are forgiven?
As the drama unfolds, Jesus read the secret thoughts of those who wondered how could he possibly forgive someone’s sins; after all only God can do that, and he certainly is not God! Blasphemy! Blasphemy! Knowing what they were thinking, Jesus said to them, “why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say your sins are forgiven, or to say to the paralyzed man, get up, take up your stretcher and walk? Jesus continued, “but to prove to you that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to the paralyzed man, “I order you: get up, take up your stretcher, and go home.” The man did exactly as he was ordered by Jesus so that everyone was astounded and praise God saying, “we have never seen anything like this.”
There are a number of points that need to be mentioned about this passage and why I find it such an exciting gospel reading.
Earlier, I eluded to the fact that it was the paralyzed man who was in need of healing, yet Jesus addressed not just the faith of the paralyzed man but also the faith of his faithful carriers. Very often in life, especially in difficult times, we will need people to journey with us, and preferably they should be people whose eyes and whose hearts are set on Jesus. We will need Christ centered people to pray for us and take us, no matter how difficult and without counting the cost, before Jesus our healer and the provider of all our needs.
The other point to note here is the determination of the paralyzed man and his four friends. When they arrived at where Jesus was, and they saw the thick crowd that had gathered there, they could have thought to themselves that it makes no sense, and that they will never get through to him with such a thick crowd. They could have thought to themselves that we may as well go back home, but they didn’t. They did not give up. They were determined to go through, get around, or get over what ever obstacles there were in their way to getting to Jesus. Love always finds a way: that is why I mentioned earlier that the carriers must have been friends of the paralyzed man, for there is no way that strangers or casual acquaintances would have gone through what they did in order to bring this man, their friend, who was in need of healing before the great healer. Love always finds a way. Persist in your prayer. No matter what obstacles you face, persist in your prayer. The four friends of the paralyzed man tells us a lot about intercession and how we should pray. Maybe you’re in a situation where your loved one; maybe a son or daughter is in some type of trouble: be it alcohol, drug addiction, gangs and crime; whatever it is, keep on bringing them before Jesus in prayer and in total faith and confidence in Jesus the great healer. You would have heard the story of St. Augustine and how his mother prayed for him for such a long, long time. She never gave up but persevered in prayer. The end result was that after years of praying, after years of going through obstacles, after years of going around obstacles, after years of going over obstacles, her prayers were answered, her son Augustine was delivered; and not only was he a changed man, but he went on to become one of the important doctors and pillars of the Catholic church. He became a saint and so is his mother. It is a very saintly practice to persevere in your prayer.
Let’s turn our attention for a moment to those who were thinking that Jesus cannot possibly forgive sins. There is a bit of this in us at times. Sometimes we pray and we doubt that God will ever hear us, let alone answer us. But he does hear our prayer and he does answer them. Sometimes the one thing that is preventing us from realizing God’s answer to our prayer is our doubt and our lack of faith. Do not doubt.
Now this is an interesting one. Here we have a paralyzed man before Jesus, and according to our human understanding, was obviously in need of healing, but Jesus does not address his physical needs, but rather forgive the man of his sins. Sometimes we go to God seeking healing of some sort, but more often than not, it is not our bodies that are sick. It is our hearts and our souls. Jesus wants to heal us where it matters most and that is at the heart of the matter — pardon the pun. The Catholic church is the richest church in the world, and its riches are not of the physical nature, but rather in Her teachings, in Her practices, and in the sacraments. One of the very powerful sacraments that is available to us through the holy Roman Catholic church, is the sacrament of reconciliation, also known as confession where through the ministry of the church, our sins are forgive and we hear the priest say to us, “your sins are forgiven.” We know this is coming straight from the heart of God especially if our confession is sincere. Make full use of all the sacraments. Go to confession regularly. Attend Mass regularly. Make full use of the great wealth that is given to you.
Like the paralyzed man, many of us have some form of paralysis that we have grown so accustomed to, that we cling to it, and treated almost as if it is part of our existence. These things are the stretchers that Jesus is commanding us to get up off of. What ever your stretcher is: anger towards someone who hurt you, bitterness towards the spouse who broke their sacred vow to you, children who seem to be ungrateful in spite of all that you do for them, difficulty in getting ahead at your job, difficulties in getting out of debt, or some form of addiction: be it alcohol, drugs, pornography, what ever it is, Jesus is saying to you get up off of your stretcher and go home!
Recently, I came across a very touching and true story about a 400 meter runner in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was favoured to win the race. However, at the 150 meter mark, after running well, he pulled up in tremendous pain and fell to the ground with a torn hamstring. Disappointed, the young sprinter lay on the ground for a while, but then got up. You see, he wanted at least to finish the race. So from the 150 meter mark, he literally hobbled around the field, each step grimacing in great pain. Officials tried to stop him advising him that it be best that he stopped, but he was determined to finish. Then, there came this man who broke past the security in a determined effort to get onto the field, and as he did so, he ran along side the young runner, encouraging him to go on. When the young runner was in too much pain, the other man held him up and acted as his ‘other leg’ determined to see him through. As they got to close enough to the finish line, the man let the runner go to finish. The got a standing ovation from the 65,000 plus crowd who witnessed it all and were deeply touched by it all. The runner was Derek Redmond and the man who came to his side was his father. That my dear friend, was the enactment of this gospel passage.
Father God in heaven, I ask you to touch the life of this reader. Lord you know all the areas of their lives that are in need of your healing touch. Heal them Lord, restore them back to the person you meant them to be so that others may see your marvelous work in them and give glory and praise to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!