Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Second Week of Advent
December 5, 2016
Is 35:1-10, Ps 85, Lk 5:17-26
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Throughout Advent, we’ve been speaking of the triple dynamism of Christ’s coming to us, our going to meet him, and, having been transformed by the encounter, traveling with him forward. Yesterday, St. John the Baptist reminded us of our need to prepare the way for this encounter and make straight the paths. On Saturday, Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah who will feed us, quench our thirst and teach us will speak to us from behind and say, “This is the path. Walk in it!” Today the Prophet Isaiah tells us that this path Jesus will come into our world to indicate is a special one: it’s a highway called “the holy way.” And Isaiah says it has several characteristics:
- First, “no one unclean may pass over it.” It’s not only for those who desire holiness, but those who have been cleansed. God’s mercy, in other words, precedes our repentance, our making straight the paths.
- Second, it’s “for those with a journey to make.” It’s not for the inert who desire to remain exactly where they are, who don’t want to change, who don’t want to move.
- Third, it’s an exodus route on which “the redeemed will walk.” Even when we’re redeemed that is not the end of the journey, but in a sense the beginning. Once we’ve been redeemed, now we can begin that journey. “Salvation,” as we prayed in the Psalm, is “along the way of his steps.”
- But this journey along the highway of holiness is something that sometimes we don’t have the strength to journey on our own. Jesus said elsewhere in the Gospel that the road that leads to life is narrow and few find it but the way that leads to perdition is broad and there are many on it. The highway to hell, in other words, is congested and the eternal express has little traffic. Many of us need the help not only of God but of others to get on the path of holiness. We can think of those who first taught us the faith, those who nourished in faith, those who continue to pray for us, and guide us, and inspire us, correct us with love, and set the example for us. We can think about those people who really helped us when we couldn’t move, when we were neck-deep in uncleanness. We can think about those who are constantly picking us up as we fall and helping us anew. And we can think about the way as Catholics we’re called to assist others to come to God’s mercy, to gain the strength for the journey, and to walk with us on the pilgrimage of the redeemed.
- Today’s Gospel is about that. We see how the friends of the paralyzed man perseveringly and faithfully overcame every obstacle to bring their friend to Jesus. When they couldn’t get him in through the front door, they did what was very difficult — keep him balanced on his stretcher as they lifted him up on the roof and then lowered him right on top of Jesus. In the case of the paralyzed man, he needed more than to fill in valleys and level mountains. He needed friends to help him overcome the obstacle of too many people in the way and climb roofs. But he got that help. And when Jesus saw him, he helped him with the first condition: he made him clean, saying to him, on account of the true friends’ faith, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then, to show in the face of criticism he had that power and that desire to make us all clean, he cured him of his paralysis and sent him on a journey: “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” Then he began the journey of the redeemed: St. Luke tells us, “He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.” And that praise was contagious. St. Luke adds: “Astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, ‘We have seen incredible things today.’”
- During this Advent season, we need not only to thank God for all those who have brought us to Jesus so that we may be cleansed, healed, strengthened, and begin the walk of the redeemed following the Redeemer, but become true friends of others, bringing them to Jesus in our prayers, through our invitations, even in our cars. Like the friends of the paralytic, we have to be willing to break social convention, to do something others might consider crazy, in order to help them come to Jesus. We need to allow others, including each other, to carry us in this way rather than out of shame prefer to stay paralyzed in our own problems. Jesus came into the world to transform and change us, but sometimes to receive what he wants to give, we need to allow others to help us. Jesus has the power to make deserts, parched lands and steppes bloom with abundant flowers, and shine like the splendor of the forests of Lebanon. He has the power and desires to strengthen feeble hands, make firm weak knees, embolden frightened hearts, open blind eyes, clear deaf ears, make the lame leap and the mute sing. No matter how injured we or others are, he wants to touch us and make it possible for us to journey with the redeemed along the highway of holiness, the way of the saints.
- That journey of the redeemed always leads to and from the altar, where we meet the same Jesus who healed the paralyzed man. It’s here that we bring all our loved ones in our prayers. It’s here that they bring us. It’s to get here that we should overcome every obstacle. It’s here that the Lord wants to strengthen our hands in prayer and in work, fortify our knees for kneeling in adoration and in service, make our frightened hearts steadfast in love, our eyes see him in others, our ears hear his voice and the cries of those in need, and help us to sing and to leap with joy. It’s here that kindness and truth meet, that justice and peace kiss. It’s here that the Lord wants to help us rise with his Risen Body, pick up our stretcher rather that continue to use it as a crutch, and go not only home but throughout the world proclaiming God’s glory to every creature and helping them to join us on the road of the redeemed. It’s here that astonishment should seize us all as we glorify God and, struck with awe, say, “We have seen incredible things today,” and “heard incredible things,” and most amazing of all, we have received within the one who not only has power on earth to forgive sins, but power to make us saints.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 IS 35:1-10
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Our God will come to save us!
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Our God will come to save us!
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Our God will come to save us!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth,
and he himself will lift the yoke of our captivity.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 5:17-26
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
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 said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”