HOMILY & IDEAS

Isaiah 43: 18-19, 21-22, 24-25; 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12.

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.

Jesus once left Capernaum to escape the crowds and now he has returned from his tour of synagogues scattered throughout the region of Galilee. Some scholars have Jesus staying in the home of Peter where earlier Jesus cured the mother-in-law of Peter. Regardless of the whereabouts of the home of Jesus, news traveled very fast in the region.

When one happened upon a closed door of a home in First Century Palestine it communicated a clear desire for privacy. However, most days all of the doors of all of the homes would be open to let in fresh air, light, sounds, and visitors. Children would shuffle in playful bands throughout the narrow streets of the town from home to home to check on any action or commotion that might catch their attention.

Reports of the doings in the village would be made to their mothers throughout the day and the daily news would be shared between the women at the well and the market. Soon the news would be passed on to the husbands. In short, it was not easy to keep a secret and on this day it was certainly no secret that Jesus was in town and that he was speaking the word -- with authority -- just as he had done in their synagogue a short time ago.

So, in no time a crowd had filed through the open door of the house in which Jesus spoke the word and soon the structure was filled to capacity. The next best seats were outside the door spilling into the streets.

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 broke through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.

A careful reading of this verse paints a picture of a crowd larger than just the four carriers accompanying the paralytic. A crowd arrived among which four men -- perhaps the stronger of those assembled -- or perhaps close relatives of the paralytic -- are observed carrying a stretcher upon which a paralyzed man lays.

Although the crowd that accompanied the paralytic may have lost some verve at the site of the crowds around the house, the four carriers are men of determination and ingenuity. The obstacle that the masses pose and perhaps the knowledge of the presence of hostile scribes are not going to be a deterrent.

They knew about roofs; for the roof of every house was flat and used as a place where one might catch an afternoon breeze and find some peace and quiet as the sun set. In fact, a ladder or staircase would have been a permanent fixture on one of the sides of the house. And so they wasted no time in ascending the stairs to the roof each clutching a corner of the stretcher. From above they could see where the roof beams were situated separating three foot wide rows of packed brushwood and clay. Enough of this material was removed to lower the stretcher through.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic -- Child, your sins are forgiven. Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves -- Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?

The four men want a healing for their friend, they want him to be brought back into society as a functioning member. Perhaps they even wonder to themselves if the sin of their friend has caused his paralyzation. Regardless, they want him made whole again and they will not miss this opportunity to present him to Jesus.

It should be noted that Jesus sees the faith of the four carriers and not that of the paralytic. Here the faithlessness of the people of the Old Testament may be slightly restored by the collective faith of this quartet in the New Testament. The faith of the friends of the paralytic is recognized and it is instrumental in the decision of Jesus to heal.

The word -- Child -- may denote the young age of the paralytic or perhaps it foreshadows his reentry back into the family of man -- a society that walks and works and lives. He will not have to be dropped off at the city gate to beg through the day anymore.

Jesus tells him that his sins are forgiven -- that it is okay -- that God is not angry with him -- that it is all right -- that his paralyzation is not a result of his sin; for his sins are forgiven -- that he can go home and not be afraid -- that he might know the dignity of a clean soul and a clean conscience.

Yet, the scribes have an opinion about the authority of Jesus to proclaim such a thing.

Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said -- Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic -- Your sins are forgiven -- or to say -- Rise pick up your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth he said to the paralytic -- I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home. He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying -- We have never seen anything like this.

This scene is significant; for throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus shies away from using miracles to prove the possession of true authority. Rather, the purpose of miracles are to heal and to reintegrate the outcast back into society. Here, however, Jesus displays his awesome power to illustrate that the Son of Man can, indeed, forgive sins.

Jesus makes it possible for this man to truly go home -- to go back into a world where he feels like a contributing member of a family. Imagine the celebration that surrounded this healing. The crowd that accompanied him and the men who carried him now walk side by side with him to his home where they will continue to say -- We have never seen anything like this -- as they glorify God.

Homily: Jesus forgave sins first in this story. Can sins be more dangerous by their spiritual paralysis than a physical handicap can be by its physical paralysis? Is this why Jesus chose to forgive the sins of this man first? Do we view things as such in our worlds? Do we see the seriousness and the paralyzation of sin? Is sin keeping us from going home?

Homily: Do we possess the same determination and focus that the four carriers had? Do we make an about face at the first sign of adversity in our approaches to Jesus, or do we understand the need to be courageous, inventive, and determined in a world that poses many obstacles?

Homily: Do we know people in our own lives who need to be carried to Jesus because they are in a state of paralyzation? Do we feel the responsibility as a community to lift up the needy and weak in our midst and deliver them to Jesus?

Homily: Do we recognize the power of the collective faith and prayers of our community? Jesus responded to the faith of the four carriers by healing their friend. Do we trust that Jesus can do the same for us as faithful, prayerful people who lift others up who need to be healed?

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