Thursday, February 16, 2012

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B - 2012

Sins forgivenMay the Peace of Christ Reign in our hearts.

It’s kind of amazing when you picture this Gospel story in your mind.

Jesus has just returned to Capernaum.

The people of the town are so excited to see him.

There are so many people that they have surrounded his house and have blocked the doors and filled every window.

As they crowd around they listen to every word Jesus says.

All of a sudden while Jesus is speaking there is noise on the roof, than scraps of wood and mud and palm frons begin to fall into the room.

And as everyone watches in amazement a hole begins to form in the roof and by now everyone is wondering what is going on.

Then to top it off all of a sudden a man in a stretcher is lowered into the room next to Jesus.

And if all of this isn’t enough Jesus simply looks at the man and  says “your sins are forgiven.”

When the scribes and religious leaders of his time hear this they complain “Who is this who claims to forgive sins.”

So to prove to them and everyone that He does indeed have the power to forgive sins, Jesus simply tells the man get up and walk.
And with those words man who was unable to walk before and had been lowered into the room gets up and walks out.

This whole passage reads like a scene from a movie with one unexpected event after another.

Let’s try and look at the cast of characters

The people have seen Jesus do pretty incredible things... that’s why they are crowding around him but they are not sure if his good deeds are from God or not.

With today’s healing and the forgiveness of sins many are beginning to believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

The religious leaders of the time are very confused.
They see good things happening but they don’t know how to react to them.

They are stuck in their conviction that only God can forgive sins and this man couldn’t possibly be God.

Whoever he is they see this new Rabbi as a threat to their power authority and place in society.

They are not happy.

The men who carried the paralytic are pretty extraordinary.

They were men of faith and men of action.

They must have had really big hearts.

They believed in Jesus and would stop at nothing to get their friend or relative to Him.

They probably struggled along the way to Jesus’ house.

We don’t know how long they travelled.

We do know that it is not easy carrying someone on a stretcher.

When they arrived and could not get near Jesus they did not give up or get discouraged.

Filled with faith they did something extraordinary and climbed up on the roof.

The man who was being carried must have been a very special person so special that his friends or relatives would do anything for him.

He too dared to believe in Jesus.
Dared to hope in his power to heal.

Finally from today’s gospel passage we learn that Jesus is slowly but surely drawing those around Him into the mystery of His identity and mission.

With each passing day they learn a little more about Him.

He inspires by His words.
He is compassionate.
He heals people.
For some He is indeed sent by God,
for others He is threat.

Today’s Gospel story is the first time Jesus allows the crowd to know that he can even forgive sins.

You know there is a little bit of us in each of these characters.

Quite frequently we are pulled towards a strong personality like Jesus, amazed at how they are able to communicate or what they have accomplished.

And quite frankly we can be pretty fickle the today’s hero is tomorrow’s failure.

Sadly like the Religious leaders of Jesus’ time sometimes we refuse to change our perspective on what’s going on in our lives.

Sometimes our opinions are set in stone and nothing will change them.

Hopefully like them men who carried the sick man to Jesus, we care about others.

Care about others enough to eve climb  a roof for them.

Which brings us to our weekly questions.

Have we ever really cared enough about another person to carry them?

Carry them through a sickness, or the loss of their job or an addiction or whatever..

Have we ever really carried someone?

When we’ve run into obstacles in our lives have we let them win or have we found a way around them  like the men who would not be deterred and climbed the roof?

Do we really believe that God loves us and will always do what’s best for us?

Finally are we aware of our own brokenness or sinfulness and do we believe that Jesus can and will forgive our sins if we ask him?

As we begin Lent these are all very important questions to ponder.

This Lent may the Lord in His love and mercy call us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and His love for us.

May  he inspire us to  be men and women of faith and action.


Friday, February 10, 2012

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B - 2012

Once upon a time I was talking with a woman who had been recently diagnosed with cancer.

She told me that her son had come to the hospital and was completely devastated.

In a moment of frustration and anger he said,
“Why did God give you this horrible disease?”

His Mom looked at him with love and said
“Honey, God doesn’t give people cancer, cancer comes from all of the man made chemicals and pollution in our world.”

It’s easy to see how her son thought that God had given his mother cancer.

The people of Jesus’ time were also convinced that sickness was some kind punishment from God.

They believed that either the person who was sick or someone in their family had done something wrong and their illness was a punishment from God. 

Many believed that sickness was God’s way of getting even.

Over and over again in the Gospels Jesus fought this way of thinking.

The sick man in the today’s Gospel was an exceptional person with a horrible disease.

Leprosy has always been a frightening disease it disfigures and isolates a person in so many ways.

For centuries people who suffered with leprosy were driven from their families and lived in lonely isolation.

They were forced to shout unclean unclean when anyone was close.

They were never allowed to touch another person again.

Sometimes the people in the family or village celebrated the sick person’s funeral as if to say your are already dead to them.

Many people burdened with this level of suffering and isolation sank into madness or despair.

Can you imagine seeing your own funeral ?

Yes this man was exceptional because he man did not give up.

Somehow he heard about Jesus and His power to heal and he believed.

When he was finally able to speak to Jesus his request simple and direct.

"If you wish you can heal me," he said.

It was because of his faith, because he dared to believe that he was healed.

That simple request was also a profound profession of faith.

When the leprous man asked Jesus to heal him he was professing his conviction that Jesus did indeed have divine power.

This man’s healing wasn’t only a physical healing it was much more.

When he was healed he was able return to his home and family and hug and touch the people he loved.

The reason Jesus asked him to go to the priests was so that they could certify that he had indeed been healed could return home.

It is important for us to understand that God doesn’t punish people will an illness.

Sometimes we get sick because of poor choices we make.

Sometimes we get sick because our bodies just wear out like anything else.

Sometimes we get an infection or come into contact with something that his harmful to us.

When sickness comes to us or someone we love we need to react like the man in the Gospel.

We  need to react with faith.

We need to profess our belief that God can and will heal us.

Sometimes God will heal us physically.

Sometimes He will heal us spiritually and  simply give us all the grace we need to carry the burden of sickness.

Sometimes we will simply be given the beautiful consolation of a holy and peaceful death.

Whatever the case may be, we will always be  better off if we can face sickness with faith rather than anger, bitterness and despair.

This week we buried 3 beautiful people from our parish and because of their faith each one of them faced death without any fear at all.

Once when I my Mom had a heart attack I sat by her in the hospital and after a long time worked up the courage to ask her if she was afraid to die.

Her response was simple and inspiring “O Rob put that out of your mind I know God loves me.

When we or someone we love faces illness or suffering may we hold on to our faith like the man into day’s Gospel.

May our prayer be simple and direct like his was.

If you want to you can heal Lord.


Friday, February 03, 2012

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…

Alright I admit it… during my life there were moments when I was definitely a problem child.

I didn’t listen, I was willful and even devious at times.

It was my way or the highway.

And if justice would have had its way with me I would have been in sorry straights.

On the other hand If only love or what appeared to be love was present in my life

I might have been that proverbial spoiled brat

And frankly when I was nine my Aunt Molly told me she thought I was a spoiled brat.

My parents somehow knew how to combine justice and sacrificial love .

They loved me but they didn’t give me everything I wanted or thought I needed.

And when I needed a swift kick in the behind they gave it to me.

As usual in today’s Gospel there are several levels of meaning.

On the surface it appears that these are simple narratives explaining how Jesus began his ministry in Galilee.

Everyone is impressed with him, he speaks with authority and he revealed that he had the power to heal people.

He is a big hit… “Everyone is looking for you” the disciples said to him.

On a much deeper level I believe that Jesus is still wrestling with the manner which  the Father needs him to accomplish his mission.

How is he to win souls for God?

How he is to save the world?

Would the world be saved if he died for our sins as justice would demand,

or would the world be saved if he gave into our needs and desires and won us over with miracles and healings etc.

Jesus must have often wondered how he could win the hearts and minds and souls of the people he loved.

At first glance it seemed that miracles and healings were working.

Everyone was looking for him, seeking him out.

His disciples were thrilled and must have panicked when they couldn’t find him in the morning.

You see the problem was simply this Jesus was an incredibly compassionate man.

When he saw a sick person it was hard for him not to heal them.

Yet every time he did so he inadvertently reinforced the wrong understanding of his mission.

Jesus is a great success in Capernaum and everyone is looking for him but they are looking for him for the wrong reason.

They are looking for him because they want something and they think Jesus can give it to them

They are saying to themselves

Let’s follow him because he can heal us when we are sick

Let’s follow him because he will feed us when we are hungry

Let’s follow him because he can give us what we want

Kind of like when we say, Dear Jesus help me win the lottery or help me win at the Casino.

Everyone in Capernaum was looking for him because they probably wanted to build him a house and have him stay with them and take care of them.

And as word spread and people from near and far started coming to see him the people of Capernaum probably wanted to cash in on his success.

Sadly after their first encounter with Jesus the people of Capernaum were not more inclined to self-sacrifice or selfless love or being faithful to the covenant.

The miracles healed their bodies but not their hearts.

Just like my parents or any parent knows that they will spoil their child if they gave them everything they wanted.

It is so crystal clear that Jesus would not have won many souls for God by setting up shop in Capernaum and beginning a healing ministry.

And so at first glance even though he appeared to be a great success remember everyone is looking for him.

After prayer and discernment in quiet place in the wilderness Jesus was able to once again refocus his mind and heart on Father’s will.

He did not return to Capernaum as the Disciples and the people wanted.

He left the sick and the hungry in Capernaum as hard as that might have been for him.

Healing them and feeding them would not guarantee the salvation of their souls.

After Prayer Jesus knew that he could not stay in that place and he moved on to other villages to proclaim the Gospel.

The temptation to work miracles and win souls would be with Jesus until the very end of his life.

It started in the desert when the devil said to him turn these stones into bread and it would finish In the garden of Gethsemane when he would ask the Father to take the cup of suffering away from him and let him save the world in another way..

We all know how the story ends

Jesus paid the price of our sins with his suffering love.

There is a lot for us to contemplate here

How do we view God and what is God’s place in our hearts?

Do we expect him to take away all of our suffering?

Do we expect him to keep us healthy even though we eat too much and exercise too little?

Do we think that somehow if we say the right words in the right order he will give us what we want ?

How often do we go away to a deserted place and refocus our minds and hearts on God’s will and God’s plan for us?

Are we looking for him because we hope to get something Or are we here in these pews because like Jesus we have come to understand that selfless sacrificial love is the only way for us to save ourselves and save the world.

Very important questions indeed

We adore you O Christ and we praise you

Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world