Letting Christ Heal Us of the Paralysis Caused by Trying to Reign, 1st Friday (II), January 12, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
January 16, 2016
1 Sam 8:4-7.10-22, Ps 89, Mk 2:1-12

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

he following points were attempted in today’s homily: 

  • Throughout this first week of Ordinary Time, as we continue to act on the central grace of the Christmas season which is to recognize that God-with-us is still with us and seeking to make us sharers in his divinity by his assuming our humanity, we have been focusing on the beginnings of Jesus’ public ministry, his teaching, preaching the reality of the kingdom, his healing, his exorcising. These are all expressions of his mercy. Today we get to the summit of that mercy. As Pope Francis repeatedly says, everything Jesus did — preaching, teaching healing — was meant to bring about forgiveness, the reconciliation of the human race with God. That’s why the first thing Jesus did in today’s Gospel, when a paralyzed man was dangerously lifted onto a roof and lowered into his midst in a home, was to heal his sins. The physical healing, which was important but less important than that, came later.
  • There are several lessons we can draw from this scene:
    • First, how important the forgiveness of sins is to Jesus. It’s his priority. Heaven rejoices more for one repentant sinner than for 99 who didn’t need to repent, as Jesus would say later. Is his priority ours? Do we share his sense of importance?
    • The second lesson is the importance of bringing friends to Jesus so that he can give them his merciful love like the friends of the paralytic brought him to Jesus. We can do that in our prayer. We can do that by example. We can do that by invitation. And we can do that by inconveniencing ourselves and carrying in one way or another those who are infirm physically, emotionally, or spiritually and cannot get there on their own.
    • The third lesson is about letting others carry us to Jesus in his mercy if we’re not going. We can think of the Blessed Mother praying for us, the saints praying for us, the contemplatives across the world praying for us. We can take advantage of when others bring confessors to us so that we can likewise meet Christ through them.
  • What are the sins that paralyze us most? We can learn it from today’s first reading. It’s a general desire not to allow God to reign in our life. It’s not just disobedience, which means not living by God commands or asks by acknowledging we should and desiring to do so. It’s not wanting God to reign. Part of that as well is not really wanting to be like God, to live in his image. We see both in the attitude of the Israelites in today’s first reading who were asking for a king so that they could be like “other nations.” Through Samuel, God told them in no uncertain terms what the cost would be, that kings would take their sons and daughters, their best fields, vineyards, olive groves, their male and female servants, their best animals, their flocks and eventually their liberty, but their unholy stubborn desire to be like other nations who did not follow the Lord blinded them. This wasn’t the first time such a request was made. Jotham had warned the people of Shechem during the time of the Judges (Judges 9) that if they allowed Abimelech to be their king, they were choosing a buckthorn, who would devour them. But they consented anyway. It’s unbelievable sometimes how we fail to convert even when we see the consequences of our behavior. Our desire to be like others rather than like God is one of the great tricks of the evil one and we fall for it over and again. (It’s important to note that God doesn’t condemn civil leadership. Jesus refused to be a political Messiah and he himself said that it was lawful to give to Caesar. But he stressed we first need to give to God. We need to obey him above men. We need to desire that his kingdom come and his will be done. When we fail to do that, that’s when, to some degree, all Hell breaks loose. As St. Peter himself said before the Sanhedrin, and St. Thomas More reiterated at the scaffold, we are to obey God first and be the good servant of the King and civil society, but God’s first).
  • One saint who allowed God fully to reign in her life, who sought to help others to enter his kingdom, and who was an instrument of the type of merciful love we see Jesus show to the paralyzed man is St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), who is basically one of the founders of the city of Montreal. She lost both her parents when she was young, but they had passed onto her the gift of their faith in God and sought to bring her to meet him. When she was 21, she attended a procession of Our Lady of the Rosary and the statue of Mary looked at her in such a way that it changed the trajectory of her life. She had a great desire to bring Jesus to others and others to him. She entered the confraternity of the Sisters of Notre Dame in her town of Troyes. They were cloistered sisters who had a school inside the convent, but they knew that they needed uncloistered women to go to teach those who would never approach the convent school, and that’s what the Confraternity did. Eventually the brother of one of the sisters came back from Ville Marie in Quebec, what would expand to become Montreal, and he, the civil leader of Ville Marie, described the need for women to come and teach especially the girls and women who were sent there as orphans to have families in the new world (a practice that 350 years later is hard to understand). She took up the charge to go far away from home to bring others to Jesus and help them learn how to live as sons and daughters of the Father who would not leave them orphans. Eventually the Bishop of Quebec, St. François de Laval, allowed her to found an order called in time the Soeurs de Notre Dame de Montreal. He wanted them to become cloistered, too, since he didn’t think it was fitting for women to go out to teach where so many men would be able to hurt them. But she insisted that Mary hadn’t been cloistered but constantly brought Jesus out and she wanted to go wherever there were people who needed to be taught about God’s word, about his mercy. She got her way. And the Church grew quickly in Montreal because of her efforts.
  • We want God to reign. And God wants to strengthen us to self-governance, to genuine freedom, which can only be had in alignment with the truth. There’s a beautiful part of today’s Gospel that doesn’t get much attention. It’s what Jesus said to the paralyzed man when he healed his paralysis. He first said, “Rise,” or “Get up,” a prophecy of what he seeks to do to all of us by his Resurrection. The second is, “Pick up your mat.” He no longer needed to be carried. He was going to be able to carry his own mat. In fact, he wasn’t going to need the mat for himself any longer, but he could now use it for charity, giving it to others, or perhaps even carrying them. Jesus wants to strengthen each of us to do our own part as well, to restore us to strength. And the third imperative was to “go home,” to start living this new reality in all our familiar surroundings, letting our relationship with the Lord who mercifully saves us reign. Today as Jesus comes with his mercy to meet us here in this, his house, he wants to raise us up through the gift of his word, his forgiveness, and his Body and Blood, so that we might live a new life like a person just cured of paralysis and, with zeal and generosity like St. Margaret Bourgeoys, go out to our friends and seek to bring them home to Jesus with us.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 SM 8:4-7, 10-22A

All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah
and said to him, “Now that you are old,
and your sons do not follow your example,
appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”
Samuel was displeased when they asked for a king to judge them.
He prayed to the LORD, however, who said in answer:
“Grant the people’s every request.
It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.”
Samuel delivered the message of the LORD in full
to those who were asking him for a king.
He told them:
“The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows:
He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses,
and they will run before his chariot.
He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups
of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers.
He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting,
and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
He will use your daughters as ointment makers, as cooks, and as bakers.
He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves,
and give them to his officials.
He will tithe your crops and your vineyards,
and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
He will take your male and female servants,
as well as your best oxen and your asses,
and use them to do his work.
He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.
When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.”The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said,
“Not so! There must be a king over us.
We too must be like other nations,
with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare
and fight our battles.”
When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say,
he repeated it to the LORD, who then said to him,
“Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 89:16-17, 18-19

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
For you are the splendor of their strength,
and by your favor our horn is exalted.
For to the LORD belongs our shield,
and to the Holy One of Israel, our King.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

Alleluia LK 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 2:1-12

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.
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.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“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?”
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.”