All we need to do is to bring others to Jesus
Sunday Homily for February 22, 2009
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (7B)
By Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS
When someone is complaining, the late Fr. C. B. Blanchet always would say, “Why don’t you fix it yourself?” The effect is like that of turning the faucet: it stops all complaints instantly. But that is not why he says it. He is rather a hands-on person by instinct, so his words have great power to challenge , much more than if he were only provocative. His thinking and kind of language is real and practical.
Once, Jesus said, “You yourselves give them something to eat!” And when the disciples began to do it, they found that out it worked. Another time he said to a man who had been lying there for thirty-eight years, “Get up!” And when he got up he found out he could.
A similar thing happens in today’s gospel. “And Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Stand up, take up your mat and go home’, The man rose and in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out”. There are probably miracles everywhere just ready to pop, if only we would do the thing instead of talking about. Jesus was not thinking about sin as a concept, he saw it as a crippling thing. “Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man: your sins are forgiven or to say: take up your mat and walk?”
We usually understand miracles as God’s doing what we want, granting us what we pray for. It should be the other way around. Miracles happen when we are able to do the will of God; when the power of God works through us and when His word enable us to live in accordance to His will. This is what the gospel reading of today is so striking…..so miraculous in more ways than one.
“So many people gathered that there was no longer room even outside the house”. There must been a lot of pushing and shoving, jockeying for position to be as close as possible to Jesus. This is a familiar sight even today whenever and wherever there is a gathering for healing and/or for traditional devotions. In these events, people are thinking of themselves, preoccupied with their needs, primarily after their personal interests. This is what happens: Every man for himself. What you have is a crowd of people that may even become oftentimes unruly . The gospel always referred to these gatherings as “many people”, “large number”, “crowd”, but never as a community.
Someone recently said that when you get inside a church, you will know right away it is a catholic church. People are seated far removed from one another as the architecture and furniture allowed. We need space, it’s true; but if that’s the only thing we need, it’s the end of community. Children sit away from one another only when there has been a fight. But they soon make up again. There must be something wrong with adults who do it instinctively and very often, and even always. The Eucharist is an assembly of the faithful . It brings us together, expressing our union in Christ and our eternal union with God. How can we say these things and still go on sitting apart? As someone said, “the farther from our mouth, the more truthful our language. We tell lies with our mouth, we tell the truth with our feet”.
We are awed by the healing of the paralytic. Yet there is another miracle happening when some of those who were listening to the preaching of Jesus and perhaps having been healed themselves by Jesus, they are now enabled and empowered to bring a paralytic to Jesus. They harnessed there energies together for the sake of one sick man as they relentlessly sought and creatively found a way to bring him close, right at the feet of Jesus, “by opening the roof above the room were Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat” . Do we not often say, “ When there is a will, there is a way”
Then the gospel points out “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven”. How about the man and his family who owned the house? His house was transformed into a sanctuary for all peoples for “so many people gathered that there was no room even outside the door” and he did not mind and perhaps he was only too happy to allow his house to be ransacked, even if he loses the roof over his head. He must have been a poor man who had a welcoming heart. When you have people in your heart, there is always room for one more. This is what is truly miraculous . Among those who listened and were healed by Jesus were transformed to become commendable and exemplary good Samaritans.
I am immediately reminded of the old story of a man who fell on a deep excavation hole along the road one day. A priest came and said, “How did you ever get down there. That should teach you to always look at where you are going! I am sorry but I am late for my appointment”. Someone else came by. He knelt down and reached down his arm as far down as he could and said, “Reach for my hand, hold on tight and I shall try to pull you out of there”.
Even the stranger soon gave up and said goodbye after wishing him luck and promising prayers for him. Finally, a third man came . He just jumped into the hole, knelt down, told him to stand on his shoulder. He lifted the man up on his shoulders and the man finally jumped out of the hole. The man was so happy that he ran home to tell his wife what has happened. And at the middle of his story, he suddenly remembered the man who had helped him. He had forgotten the good Samaritan.
The paralyzed man is obviously in need of other people. Because of the many paralyses in life that we experience we find it hard to find our way back and so we need each other. The love and compassion we have for our suffering neighbors compels us to help. Indeed, we are tested when we are in need; but it is a greater test when others are in need. We are even more tested when we feel helpless because all our efforts to be of help have been in vain. It is well to remember that all we need to do is to bring others to Jesus and He knows best what to do and how to do it.
There is yet another big test happening now…. It is called recession….the global economic crisis. People, by the thousands, are losing their jobs. But the crisis, it would seem to me is the mass moral breakdown that started with the Wall Mart worker trampled to death by shoppers who were after bargains to be seized. Is it now everyman for himself”. I heared retailers report that gun sales are up. Have we become vigilantes because there seems to be no effective sanctions to the greedheads, gamblers and swindlers that caused the crisis in the first place.
My thoughts are best expressed by Nancy Gibbs on a recent essay. She writes the following:
“Time and time again we have seen how we can rise to the occasion in a crisis. We have felt our strength in times of war and in the aftermath of natural disasters. But the great Recession is no short-term, one-time event, to which we respond and move on. It is changing how we think and how we live and how we see one another”. Then she goes on to point out; “The notion that misery loves company may be less about malice than about solace: that problems shared grow smaller, that courage is contagious……. To suffer alone is a tragedy; to struggle together is an opportunity , when we find out what we really care about”. She also tells of a friend in Iowa who was invited to a poverty party ----“because why should a world-wide recession spoil all our fun!” the invitation said. Guests were told to bring “ a dish to share, a (cheap) bottle of wine, a hard-luck story and a devil-may-care attitude”.
Maybe as times get worse, we get better. Our pain makes feel other people’s too; our fears let us practice valor; we are tough and tender as well. And among the things we can no longer afford are things we never really wanted: like the solitude of snobbery and the luxury of denial ad apathy.