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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
2/15/2012 12:23:00 PM
Be open to the ways of God

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland


Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12


Imagine the scene. The word had spread that Jesus was in Capernaum and such a large crowd gathered that all of them could not get in the house. It is a mixed crowd—ordinary people from the neighborhood and the scribes who would not ordinarily socialize with such a group. They came for different reasons—some because they hoped that Jesus was the answer to their hopes, some because they feared he would harm the institutions that held the people in check.


The crowd was straining to hear Jesus’ words when they heard a scraping that seemed to come from the ceiling. They weren’t alarmed because the roof of a Palestinian house is flat, consisting of beams spanning the space between the walls, packed tight with clay and dirt on top. A set of stairs on the side of the house allowed access to the roof. Perhaps the crowd thought that animals were scurrying across the roof. Then, suddenly, dirt and wooden slats began to fall and a stretcher descended in the midst of the room. A paralytic was brought to Jesus by four of his friends. Jesus greeted the paralytic by forgiving his sins. That might seem strange to us but for the people of that time, it made good sense because they believed that sin and suffering were linked. If someone was suffering, they believed it was because he had sinned.


When I read Gospel stories, I try to find myself in the story. In today’s Gospel, I want to be like the paralytic’s friends who were willing to overcome all sorts of obstacles so that their friend might be healed. When Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic’s friends, he forgave the paralytic’s sins.  I also want to be like the paralytic who had such faithful friends.   


The scribes immediately object because they know that only God can forgive sins and Jesus has healed the paralytic. Now they are indeed in a quandary. Their belief that suffering and sin are connected has trapped them. It is clear that if Jesus can heal the paralytic, he can forgive sins. It is also clear that his power comes from God.


All of this was far removed from the religious thinking of the scribes. Their desire to protect their institutions and authority closed them to the message of Jesus. They were unable to accept the fact that God can work in ways that we do not understand and that do not seem to fit within our own religious parameters.


We gather at this Eucharist and pray for openness to God’s actions in our lives.



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