2012 Week 3 of Great Fast – Devotional & Scripture Readings
Devotional based on texts taken from the Scripture Readings of Third Sunday of Fifty days Lent – Healing of the Paralytic
Written by Rev. Dn. Philip Mathew
In St Mark's Gospel, the reading for this third
Sunday of Lent (Mark 2.1-11) comes immediately after the healing of the leper
(Mark 1.40-45), a story we heard last week from St Luke's Gospel. Last Sunday,
after a full week of Lenten struggle, the Church offered us the example of the
leper, a man who was full of leprosy, who sensed his need for cleansing, and
was not afraid to approach Jesus, kneel before him, and profess faith in his
ability to cleanse him, if he was only willing to do so. In response, Jesus
stretches out his hand to him, touches him, and heals him. The leper serves as
an example to us--to know and acknowledge our own spiritual sickness, which
completely infects us; to boldly and confidently approach Jesus; and to ask him
for healing, having faith that he is always willing to heal those who come to
him with a broken and contrite heart.
Today, a very different example is given to us.
Jesus preaches in a house in Capernaum, and there are many people listening to
him; they are a large crowd, impossible to break through. Nevertheless, four
men manage to get to Jesus, carrying a paralyzed man on his pallet, lowering
him through a hole they made in someone else's roof. Seeing their faith, we are
told, Jesus forgives the paralyzed man's sins, and, in response to the doubts
of the scribes, raises him from his pallet and restores his ability to
The paralytic may have been earnestly praying and
hoping that he might be cured one day. He may have heard of the carpenter-rabbi
from Nazareth, of his teachings, and of his miracles, and he may have thought
that this man was his best hope for healing. He may have gotten some friends of
his to bring him to Jesus, and it was his faith and theirs that saved him. It
is also possible that the paralytic was a bitter and broken man. Paralyzed from
birth or through some accident, perhaps he was angry at God for having allowed
him to live in such a pitiful state. Maybe he heard of the carpenter-rabbi from
Nazareth and responded with cynicism: "Another false messiah".
Perhaps he didn't want anything to do with Jesus, but his friends took him
anyway, and being paralyzed, he was helpless in the matter. We don't know
either way, because St Mark hasn't told us one way or another--the paralyzed
man says not a word. It is the faith of the four friends that is known for
sure, and it is in response to their faith that our Lord heals and saves this
paralytic and sets him free.
Today we are reminded that no man is saved alone,
on his own, by himself and through his own efforts. Ultimately, our Lord Jesus
Christ provides healing and salvation for sinners, but sometimes sinners are
brought to him for healing and salvation through the mediation, effort, prayer,
and faith of others. And we are reminded that our calling as individuals, and
as a Church, is to be one of those four men, willing to do everything in our
power, and even to take a risk here and there, to save our fellow man. That is
our calling as individuals and as a Church; to always be on the lookout for the
lost, and to bring them back to Christ and to the Church.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit
that our Church is very often not a place where this happens. It is supposed to
be the spiritual hospital to which Christ calls the sinners in order to repent,
but we usually turn it into a "spiritual country club", where the
"holy" and the "pure", the "good" and the
"faithful", can come, pray, sing, read, light candles, and receive
sacraments, making a show of their "holiness", rejoicing in their
"salvation", and being satisfied with themselves. If we notice our
brother or sister going in the wrong direction, heading into sin or peril, we
do not sincerely try to help. We stand back and watch, waiting for the fall,
and when it happens, we talk about it, we laugh, we make fun, and we feel good
about ourselves, that we're not all that bad. We may even come up with excuses
to defend this behavior of ours. Usually, that fallen brother or sister will
not feel like they have a place in our community again, and we do not go
looking for them to bring them back. They become, and always will be, shameful
outcasts. After all, the entire population of Capernaum most likely knew about
the paralytic, but they ran past him to sit at the feet of Jesus. Only four men
were found in the town who cared enough about the paralytic to bring him to
Jesus and place him in the midst of the congregation from which he was most
likely very isolated. We are rarely like these four men, and most often we are
like the citizens of Capernaum.
Today's Gospel teaches us to be the eyes and ears,
the arms and legs, of the Good Shepherd, always willing to look for the lost
sheep, to find them, and to bring them back to Christ in the midst of his
Church for healing and restoration. If we do this with pure motives, he is able
to work miracles and transformations in the lives of those sheep, whatever
their spiritual condition, because of our faith. God can work through us to
heal the spiritually paralyzed if we are faithful. But today's Gospel also
convicts us of the reality that this is often not the case, that we quite often
ignore, disregard, and even condemn such people, and we are reminded that they
may well remain spiritually paralyzed if we do nothing, and what's more, we
will be guilty because of it, and we will join them as our hearts become colder
and stonier, as we ourselves become spiritually paralyzed. And if that happens,
woe to us--we may not find four friends to bring us back to Jesus.
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