friday, first week of ordinary time

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Think about some of the people today who are brought to Christ through the help of others, where would one start? Start perhaps at the line that flows from the Eucharist at Mass, they are the people that receive Christ and carry Him out that Church. They bring Christ to those infirm, or hungry, or struggling, or lost. They do so through obedience to that message He preached. Sometimes the path by which they deliver Jesus to others might not always be noticeable because they are not dressed in religious garments, or administering Christ through a religious institution; but they carry Him to those in need just the same.

“They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.”

They are the missionaries who deliver Christian relief to those in need, and they are those who share what little they have because they learned to live as Christians. Both those that hand out a loaf of bread, and those that share their allotted bread with others. They bring Christ to others as counselors, and by lending their time and ear and shoulder to a neighbor in need. Simply because they heard His message and followed him. One through an institution and a vocation, the other through a conviction. Those who hear His message find a way to bring Him to others, no matter the circumstances, and no matter their profession, or state in life.Those living their faith will find ways to bring Christ’s healing to those in need through some ingenious, and often unnoticeable ways. Sometimes when receiving that Eucharist one must pause to think. Yes it is received for my benefit, to give me strength and healing. It also is given to me so that I might deliver it to another perhaps unable to reach for it themselves. Its not always about the priest delivering Christ in a church. Sometimes its about the merchant, and the mechanic, or the industrialist and artists doing the same in their own way. Ordinary people in ordinary lives, bringing Christ to others.

"Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."

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Mt 9:1-8.
He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.
 
The story of the healing of the paralytic is found in the three synoptic gospels. Here Jesus has crossed back into his native soil and native culture. In the three renditions of this story the paralytic is always carried to Jesus by others.In the other version the paralytics friends have trouble reaching Jesus because they are blocked by large crowds. It is in that story they are so persistent that they lower the paralytic in the stretcher trough the roof to where Jesus is. It is the friends of the paralytic that mediate his healing; it is their faith that draws Jesus’s attention. The paralytic is weak and is incapable of making this move himself. This does not just hold true for a paralytic, frequently when people need Gods healing the most it is others that bring the sick, injured , the lost to God. It is the intercession of others that bring about the healing. Might that be one reason people join together at a church, to collectively intercede on behalf of others?

In the story Jesus does not begin with the healing though, he begins by forgiving the mans sins and this is the issue the scribes challenge. They accuse Jesus of Blasphemy. According to the scribes and much of the Jewish hierarchy of the day,  only God has the power to forgive sins and this is the point that Jesus argues. It is to show that he has the power to forgive sins that Jesus tells this paralytic “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” Forgiveness of sins is something Jesus does early in his ministry, it is also something he grants the apostles the authority to do. Forgiveness of sins is central to the Christian faith.

Attitudes towards sins were quite different 2000 years ago. At that time and within that culture many things were considered the result of sin. Blindness, paralysis, leprosy, deformities all might be the result of “sin”. Peoples suffering was because they did something wrong.Other forms of sins were through falls in character , they were behavioral transgressions. When Jesus forgave the sins of those who suffered physical ailments that were beyond peoples control, I wonder if that was to make a point that these types of sins should be forgiven; that people should not be blamed for things beyond their control? Many times the stigma associated with these ailments was more crippling to the individual that the ailment itself.I wonder if Jesus thought that if he could get is followers to forgive these ailments it would be a step towards getting people to reconcile, to forgive some of the behavioral transgressions; to forgive the sins of our own fault?

‘Do you want to get well?’

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Three lines from the curing of the paralytic at the pool:
             JesusDo you want to get well?
              ParalyticSir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
             Jesus-“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked
The first Jesus asks if the paralytic if he wishes to be well in five words. It is a simple yes or no question, yet the man does not answer it. He tells why he cannot, beginning with five words “Sir, I have no one. “Jesus then tells him what to do. The paralytic did have someone, he had Jesus. Jesus tells him, Get up! He does not tell him to wait for divine intervention to lift him up. Jesus requires that the man takes action for himself. He tells him to take his bed; the bed that made it comfortable to lie down, the bed that made it comfortable to be a cripple. (You made your bed, now lie in it?)In a way, it was a crutch to prevent him from walking. Jesus then commands him to walk. Many at the time were waiting for Gods kingdom to come to them, to appear to them. Jesus’s message is that  the kingdom of  God is at hand, but it requires us to do something to attain it: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk!” 

AnGels

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     According to the legend of the pool of Bethesda, where the paralytic was healed; once a day an angel would touch the waters of the pool, stirring them up. The first person to enter the waters at that time would be healed.
     In Luke [22:43], an angel comforts Jesus during the Agony in the Garden. In Matthew [28:5] an angel speaks at the empty tomb, following the Resurrection of Jesus and the rolling back of the stone by angels.

3 Angels

          Michael: “who is like God?”
          Gabriel: the strength of God
          Raphael: God Heals

The pooL @ Bethesda

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         Look back on the characters in the Lenten readings, they were paralyzed, persecuted,wounded. They were offered cures that did not work, goals they could not obtain. They Suffered at the fate of man. They were clean but they did not realize it; they were told something else by the establisHment. There was hope, yet they were only just beginning to recognize it (in the same sign of the cross that dotted my forehead.)
        Great number of disabled people used to lie at the pool of Bethesda— the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. The one in the scripture reading had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
     Bethesda,beth+hesda, means “house of mercy”, it could also mean house of disgrace: It was merciful due to the healing that were to occur there, and it was disgraceful due to the swarms of invalids surrounding it. When Jesus cured the paralytic, the Pharisees were only concerned with the prohibition of carrying on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus was merciful.Not only the paralytic was restored. So was Mercy….. .. . .. 

Corporal works of mercy            Spiritual works of mercy     
 To feed the hungry.                                    Instruct the uninformed  
To give drink to the thirsty.                            Counsel the doubtful  
 To shelter the homeless.                                     Admonish sinners
To clothe the naked                                        Bear wrongs patiently
To visit and ransom the captive, (prisoners).     Forgive offenses willingly
 To visit the sick.                                    – Comfort the afflicted
To bury the dead.                      – Pray for the living, the sick and the dead