Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Never have we seen..."

When after some days he returned to Capernaum, the news went round that he was at home; and such a crowd collected that the space in front of the door was not big enough to hold them. And while he was proclaiming the message to them a man was brought who was paralysed. Four men were carrying him, but because of the crowd they could not get him near. So they opened up the roof over the place where Jesus was, and when they had broken through they lowered the stretcher on which the paralysed man was lying . When Jesus saw their faith, he said, to the paralysed man, "My son your sins are forgiven."
Now there were some lawyers sitting there and they thought to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? This is blasphemy! Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus knew in his own mind that this was what they were thinking, and said to them: "Why do you harbour thoughts like these? Is it easier to say to this paralysed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up, take up your bed and walk'? But to convince you that the Son of Man has the right on earth to forgive sins' - he turned to the paralysed man - 'I say to you, stand up, take your bed, and go home.' And he got up, took his stretcher at once, and went out in full view of them all, so that they were astounded and praised God. 'Never before', they said, 'have we seen the like.' (Mark 2: 1-12)

The first verse tells us that Jesus was at home. Maybe he had a kind of headquarters in Capernaum. Maybe it was his own house that had the roof ripped open. At any rate, Jesus didn't respond to the man's grand entrance. We might imagine he laughed.

In 1996 I made a pilgrimage to Medjugorge and climbed Cross Mountain, a difficult hike up a very steep rough path of slippery, shifting, sharp marble. We were only a few minutes into the journey when I found myself next to an elderly woman - wearing a thick sweater in August! We didn't speak a word of each other's language, but it was clear that this was going to be extraordinarily difficult for her. So I offered her my right arm and let her set the pace. She kept on, walking steadily for over an hour, not pausing for a water or shade break, head down and intent on where she was placing her feet. She brings to mind the perseverance and determination of these four gospel fellows who found a way to get their friend to Jesus.

Notice that the man has a physical problem but Jesus addresses the spiritual issue first. "Your sins are forgiven." Lots of people are physically or emotionally unwell, but their real problem is a spiritual one: there is unrecognized or un-revealed pride, hatred or suspicion. It used to be said of Catholics that they had a lesser incidence of craziness as Catholics have built into their religious system a way to get rid of the things that make people neurotic. 

Notice too that these religious lawyers are sniffing around looking for the moment to trap Jesus. They think they have him now as they hear Jesus make a God-claim by the forgiveness of the man's sins. Jesus skillfully turns the tables on them.

Religious people can be rather impossible, walking around with their moral checklist. Pope Francis has asked the Church to shift its emphasis. There's a lot more to Christianity than a sexual ethic. A pious church lady told me once, "I'm not into this justice stuff." She must be having a hard time with this pope. None of this is lost on Jesus, "Why do you harbor thoughts like these?" he asks. I think he would ask the same of many Christians today - disappointed as he might be with people's negative attitudes towards the poor, the newcomer, persons of other colors and inclinations, capital punishment, war. There's a lot of hate out there!

The scene ends rather dramatically, as it had begun. And there's a big and joyful response to what's been seen. We can well imagine that the lawyers didn't share the crowd's enthusiasm. "If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts," the psalm says. Jesus Christ giving voice to the God of kind-mercy. Some folks still don't want to hear of God being kindly disposed toward those who are not like them or of whom they disapprove. Let's hope for better.

1 comment:

  1. Father,
    Awesome statements of today's needs. May we all hear Jesus's words and truly take up our beds of negative thoughts and actions and follow Him to our highest good and to Heaven.