Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on being set free from sinful paralysis.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time and send us a comment . Please read Mark 2:1-12 .

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/19/2012The 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 2.1-12.
One year, at their annual United Methodist meeting,  Bishop Woodie White presided over the gathering of almost a thousand delegates when there arose a question from the floor and an argument broke out (imagine that!).  In the midst of the argument, Bishop White’s voice broke through the noise and confusion as he spoke into his microphone.  He said, “Excuse me!  I am the bishop–and I am going to bish!”  The once tense place broke out in an almost raucous laughter.
     Something that we Catholics know all too well was made evident at that gathering of that protestant denomination where clergy and laity have authority to make policy for the their church, it is the bishop who is the apostle sent by God to look the people.  
The word “bishop” in its original Greek form means “overseer”.  Some members of that Methodist gathering recalled that event and said that the Bishop was “their Father in Christ.”  He had the authority to break into the conversation and put those people back on track because of who a bishop is.
So it is with Christ.  In our passage today, the people came to him because they knew there was something about him that was special.  Those who had faith were those who knew that he was the Messiah, the anointed one, sent from God.  They believed that Jesus was the Messiah who could forgive sins and heal people.  Even more than that, the Scribed and Pharisees tell us, through their lack of belief, that he is God.
     The Scribes, who were murmuring in their hearts, couldn’t even keep their private conversations from him.  He knew that they were saying, “Wait a minute!  Only God can forgive sins!”  Jesus says to them in essence, “it is easier to forgive sins for me than to heal because I am God.”  In fact, Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10.30).  He is divine.  Jesus’ Divinity is important because only God can forgive sins and Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic because he can.
I have a particular spiritual “thorn” I deal with constantly.  I am not going to tell you what it is, but I have to lean on God for this spiritual “thorn”.  I cannot get it completely right.  I may do some things better on some days than I am able to do them on others.  Because I love the Lord, I want so badly to get it right as a thank offering to him for dying on the cross for all of humanity.  The words of the apostle St. Paul ring in my head when I think of myself,
O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7.24)
And
For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. (Romans 7.15)
 
Thankfully, Christianity is founded on the principle that humans screw it all up.  It is Christ who comes to forgive us of our sins so that we don’t have to get it right all the time.  We just have to want to get it right and work to get it right.
I often wonder what those folks who do not believe in God do for forgiveness.  What do they do when they have messed up their lives, the lives of their children and the lives of their friends and neighbors?  Do they try to convince themselves that they have done nothing wrong?  But I think that deep down they know that they mess it up just like the rest of us.  Where do they go?  What do they do?
This passage today from the Gospel of St. Mark assures us that although God does want us to try to get it right all of the time, he realizes that we won’t.  Sometimes we have to carry a load to God with the help of others like the four who carried the paralytic.  Sometimes our friends and neighbors have to dig through the roof of our denial to lower us down to Jesus.  But always, for those who are truly sorry for what they have done or failed to do, the Lord our God, Jesus Christ, offers us forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.  He can do it because he is God.
 
Now here is the warning label on this reflection: forgiveness of sins was not given to us so that it would alleviate our indigestion or help us sleep at night.  Forgiveness of sins puts us right with God so that we can live a different life.  Let me say that again, forgiveness of sins puts us right with God so that we can live a different life.  D. Gregory Jones, writes in his book Embodying Forgiveness about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s concerns about our ideas concerning forgiveness, he writes,
 “…convictions led Bonhoeffer to polemicize against the trivialization and privitization of the Christian life, and specifically Christian forgiveness.  These [following] tendencies converged in what Bonhoeffer termed “cheap grace”: “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”  With such an approach to Christian life, the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed as a general truth, and “my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured all my sins are all forgiven.”
Today I am not telling you that your sins are all forgiven and you can go out into the world and be the same scoundrel you might have been before.  No!  I am saying that we need to take the paralytic in the Gospel of Mark as an example of our own walk with Christ.
Sin paralyzes us.  It causes us to get our lives into a quagmire.  Who can really trust a liar?  Who can believe even a person who tells what are self-deceptively called “white-lies”?  Who can really rely upon a person who is slothful?  Who wants to give something to someone who steals?  Our sin causes the world to not want to deal with us.  Sin paralyzes us.  The only way to be set free from our sin is to confess our sins to Jesus and, as St. James tells us, to another, then get up and walk.
     You know, I think we realize something about this true confession and change business that causes us to not want to do it.  That thing is that it is a lot easier to just lay there on the mat, paralyzed.  It is safe.  We know how it feels.  There is no challenge to it.  We can just be as we always were and are.  But to be empowered by Christ to get up and walk means that we have to stretch our legs.  When we are forgiven it means we have to work out those weak muscles and be someone who no longer has to be carried by those around us for our drinking, our filandering, our lying, our conniving, our (you fill in the blank).
You know what?  The other side to this is that confession leaves us free to be the person that Jesus Christ wants us to be.  We can be a positive force in the world.  We can become humble and say, “Yeah, I know I blew it, but I am a changed person.  Jesus has changed me.  He has forgiven my sins and I am ready to walk anew.  There is no stopping me now.  I am a new child.  Everyday I am made anew through the forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ to take up my mat and go.”
     I want us to come to grips with the fact that there is a new life that changes us daily.  I want us to stop seeing the Christian life as a drag.  I don’t want us to wallow in the fact that we have sins with which we must deal.  I want us to see the process of forgivenss as a dynamic powerful possibility that is being worked out by God through us.
My mother used to sell houses in South Bend for thirty five years.  I used to go through the houses that were empty with her as she previewed them for showing.  I liked to go through them because I liked to talk with her about the possibilities that could be in that house.  We would say to each other, “You could take out this counter top and put in a new one.  This window treatment is nice.  You could knock out this wall and open this up and it would make the whole place seem roomier.”  On and on we would go. It is a great part, and fun part, of our friendship.
This is how I often view people. I see in them what I believe Christ sees.  I see the person that they could be when they come to me and after they confess their sins, are forgiven, and take up their matt and walk.  Who is it you could be if only you would confess your sins and come to Jesus for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance?  What is that is paralyzing you?  
   Go to Confession, then take up your mat and walk.  Glory be to God!  Amen?  Amen.
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