January 13, 2017
Dear fellow pilgrims,
Happy Friday! My giant, pregnant belly and I greet you from an enormous couch in a coffee shop in Brooklyn.
Maybe it’s just the third trimester pregnant fatigue, but I had a hard time coming up with a reflection today, but after reading through the Gospel about twenty times, here are some key messages that are coming through my fuzzy brain:
- We often come to Jesus thinking we know what we need the most, but are often under-expecting what Jesus can really do for us.
- When He gives us something else besides what we specifically hoped and prayed for, we may doubt His power and authority in our lives.
- Jesus sees all of this in our hearts, and still meets us with other powerful acts to help our unbelief.
This miracle of Jesus in the Gospel reading, the forgiving and healing of the paralytic, always touches me when I read its different accounts. What particularly stood out to me in this reading was that this account is more focused on the sequence of events revolving around interior movements of Jesus’ Heart and the crowds, rather than a back-and-forth between Jesus and individuals.
Let’s review what happens, here:
- Jesus is physically crowded by people who want to see Him.
- All are there because they are intrigued by Jesus; something inside them propelled them to see Him.
- It is SO crowded in there that four friends lower their paralyzed friend through the ROOF.
- We don’t know the internal motivations of these guys, but we know that this group of men had enough faith that getting their paralyzed friend in the vicinity of Jesus could maybe lead to his healing. Also, the paralytic man must have been so trusting in his friends about their ability to not let him fall through the roof… either that or he was just that desperate for healing.
- Jesus, instead of immediately healing the paralytic man of the obvious ailment, forgives the paralytic man of his sins.
- After He forgives the paralytic, we are not given insight into how the paralytic feels about the matter. Although, we can reasonably assume he’s disappointed!
- Jesus senses the scribes’ doubts and accusations and then heals the paralytic in response to these doubts.
- What I gather from Jesus’ words is that even though He accomplished the bigger and more “difficult” feat by forgiving the paralytic man of his sins, He will perform the less difficult feat of healing the man’s physical illness in order that the scribes would believe that He had the power to accomplish the more difficult feat in the first place.
Sounds backwards? Yep. But what did you expect? We are rigid, sensual humans who want what we want… until we learn better from Jesus. Or, we may never learn if we don’t pay attention to Him.
BUT... this last part shows us the amazing message of this story:
Jesus meets us in our doubts by giving us (or others!) the more apparent things we hope for, in hopes that we will have more faith and trust that He will give us what He wants us to hope for.
This is a trust-building exercise, with Jesus loving us so much that He will meet us where we are in our smaller hopes, instead of leaving us cold in our desires and expectations of Him.
What this says about the Heart and intentions of Jesus is that He is aware of the sensual nature of our humanity and does not punish us for it. (He is, in fact, our Creator.) But He is also aware of the fallen nature of this sensuality that turns away from Him when He does not act in the way we expect, and even order Him to. (e.g. The scribes did not expect Him to forgive sins; the paralytic probably did not expect Him to initially “just” forgive his sins.) Oftentimes, we are only made aware of our more invisible spiritual needs through the meeting of lesser, more immediately apparent needs, even though our spiritual needs are infinitely more important.
This truth should have us floored by the love of God for His children… and the humility with which He meets us, wooing us in our current small-boxed ideas of Who He Is, while also leading us to greater holiness and greater expectations of Him.