Weekly HomilyArchives

Monday, February 13, 2012

“Some people brought to Jesus a paralyzed man. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:3, 5)


February 19, 2012
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 2:1-12 Reading Here 
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

Unknowingly snatched from the very brink of death on December 30th! Caught just as I was about to amble innocently right over the precipice! Thank God for the Guardian Angel sent me just at the cusp of the changing year!

The noise began gently some 6 months back, and paying it little attention, I just drove on – and on and on. Over those months, while I noticed no change in ability to stop when I depressed the car’s brake pedal, the sound of grinding friction increased so subtly that I wasn’t consciously aware of it. But when, in early December, the trembling voice of an anxious passenger alerted me to the possibility of real trouble, I promised myself that I’d get the car checked out.

But December! So much going on in pre-Christmas preparation! Relegating the car brakes to the end of a lengthy “to do” list, they only made it to the top on Friday, December 30th, just as the New Year’s weekend was about to begin.

“Sure, come on in!” invited the Firestone Auto Center customer rep during an early morning phone call. Subsequently, by 8 AM my car was up on the lift, and I was seated in the lounge anxiously awaiting a diagnosis. When, about 45 minutes later, the rep approached me, taking a seat right next to me as he leaned in and spoke in the same quiet, soothing tones I’ve come to recognize as those of a doctor delivering a terminal diagnosis to an unsuspecting patient, my stomach tightened in near-nausea.

“You’ve been driving your car just like this for a while now, you say?” he inquired of me. “Yes,” I responded with quavering voice. “For quite a while,” I added in confessional tone. Face scrunching in disbelief, he delivered his findings. “Well, I have to tell you – you don’t have any brakes.”

The silence between us communicating the gravity of the situation, my timid voice squeaked out from blanched face and asked, “What can we do about it?” The rep’s voice dropping its feigned gentleness, he grew quite assertive as he stood and continued, “Well, I can’t let you drive this car out of here today in this condition. For one thing, it’d be illegal. For another, you might die. So, bottom line is, you need a complete brake replacement today. And it’s going to be expensive.” When I asked how much, he snappily responded, “Probably around $600, maybe more.”

My life spared by the grace of God, I considered my situation for the next three hours as the car received a whole new braking system and I a new respect for what began so quietly and grew so subtly into a thing that threatened my very life.

Sickness can creep up on us just like this. So can sin. Journeying jauntily through our days, we may have no conscious awareness of what’s tearing at our bodies, minds or souls. While there may be that faintest symptom of something not quite right, we may relegate further consideration of it to the bottom of the “to do” list. But there always comes a December 30th, the day the truth sets us free – but not before making us miserable.

In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus spoke a hard truth to a man – and he was set free, both in soul and body. The story begins, “Some people brought to Jesus a paralyzed man. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:3, 5) And what a wail of disappointment went through the gathered crowd! The man on the mat had been brought to Jesus for healing of his paralysis. And that’s just what Jesus did – healed him of paralysis, not that he might walk better on earth but that he might live better, even unto eternity! While healing crippled legs might be more immediately dramatic and a source of amazement for the gawking crowd, healing of soul by the forgiveness of sin was surely the greater miracle. But, to satisfy the demands of the crowd, Jesus also worked the bodily miracle all were expecting, and the man on the mat arose, picked up his mat and went home.

But is this really the end of the story for this man? Of course it isn’t! While today he could pick up his mat and head home, healed in body and soul, there were so many tomorrows to contend with – new bodily afflictions to limit him, new sins to burden his soul. And so it is with us. Even should we be recipient of a miraculous healing, there will be something down the road to lay us low once again. Something down the road that, indeed, will lay us in the grave. Something that will ensure our release from this biodegradable container we mistakenly identify as ourselves. C.S. Lewis punctuated this truth more succinctly when he wrote, "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday, the singular day in the annual calendar when we Christians crowd into churches to receive the black smudge on our foreheads reminding us that we’re spending far too much energy and anxiety on what is but dust – and not enough on what is most important. It’s the singular day when we boldly and proudly claim that fashion and fetish hold no claim on us. Indeed, it’s the day to consider the smudge we’ve placed upon our eternal inheritance.

December 30th was, for me, a preamble to Ash Wednesday. As I sat in the Firestone Auto Center’s customer lounge that Friday morning reflecting on the mystery of God’s grace, my car received a whole new braking system – and I a new respect for what began so quietly and grew so subtly into a thing that threatened my very life.

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