One of the things I learned early on in my association with the Passionists is their ability to see new and deeper lessons and insights into the same Gospel time after time. I would have largely believed that there was one lesson from each story and had it all sewn up from the first hearing. Today’s Gospel would have been a prime example of the way I used to slot it into place in my mind from the very first word. “This Gospel is about the faith of friends who tore back a roof to see that their friend was healed.”
I was hearing it proclaimed every time, but I was not listening to the new insights. Somehow, I missed the reality of the Living Word of God that is constantly moving and inviting us into deeper relationships. It inspires us in every stage of our life as long as we are truly listening.
I will forever be grateful to those wonderful men—and women—who opened up Sacred Scripture in ever changing and new ways for me. It inspired me to pursue classes on my own and to trust in each message, daily given.
While today’s Gospel is about a deep faith in Jesus to heal and to forgive, a new insight for me is the whole drama. The bigger picture. We are invited to understand Jesus’ destiny as he lives between the tension of healing—and forgiving—and the “legal experts” judgments of his actions. They judged him to be blasphemous and just a traveling preacher. How could he forgive sins in the name of God?
A closer look at the text reveals there is no mention of any specific friendship, “they came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.” (V.3) This might suggest that the whole community was involved in this act. Might it have been the faith not just of the four but of the whole community? Perhaps this offers us one of the blessings of belonging to a faith community. And, what about Jesus’ words of forgiveness of sin? One commentary I read recently suggested that forgiveness was a sign of weakness in the ancient world. One might add, what has changed? We still have wars and strife and needless suffering. Lest we get too bogged down in the negative, we see that Jesus did heal the paralytic; he gave hope to his darkness. We know that Jesus obliterated sin—our sin—and opened up heaven for all. It is our choice to follow him and do likewise—forgive—and bring peace into our hearts and our world.
Sometimes we don’t hear that message very well. We may listen and assume we have the lesson already learned. Paul touches on this in our first reading. In the chapter before our reading, Paul goes into a bit more detail about the ancestors who didn’t hear and therefore may not enter into the Sabbath rest spoken of in Genesis. In a way, I was like that before my eyes were opened to the truth of our ever-changing and ever-new Word, even as he –the Word incarnate—never changes. We are the ones who need to change to whatever life offers us through the lens of faith.
The inspiration I heard today is the blessing of our faith community, to the gift of belonging and strength. We are not perfect, yet we journey together in faith, hope, and love.
May we always remember that we belong to God and each other. May we strive to listen to hear his voice in our hearts. He cares for us. We are worth everything because of his love for us. May we ultimately enjoy his rest. Amen
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.