Friday, January 13, 2012

Homily for Mark 2:1-12 (The lowering of the paralytic)

This homily was given on January 13th using the scriptures: 1 Samuel 84-22 (The Israelites demanding a king) and Mark 2:1-12 (the lowering of a man with paralysis through the roof where Jesus was staying.)
           God grants our desires - whether spoken or not - even if it costs God something and brings hurt and rejection to God. God wants to give us what we want. In the first reading, Samuel is displeased with the community elders and God tells him to relax. It is not Samuel they are rejecting; they are rejecting God as king. They are fed up with not having an earthly king to show for themselves among the community of nations. They want to stand up and be counted. Like us, they want to be seen and heard and known. Sometimes their invisible God-king disappoints. They merely want to be like all the other nations who can proudly boast of their king.  ~ Against better judgment, God tells Samuel to relent. Somewhere in their request is a deep desire for the good, though precise words cannot pinpoint it yet. God will give them their king - even though what they ask is not really what they seek.
            In the Gospel, Jesus returns home after a terrific preaching tour. He has done miracles, healed many, and demonstrated great power through his words. Presumably, he wants to rest and visit his family and friends. We do not know for sure, but while he is in his own home, many gather around his so they could hear him speak and to be healed, and as that is happening, several people begin to dismantle his roof so they could lower a man with paralysis before him. I know I would be angry if someone ripped the roof off my house, but what I find instructive is this is the place where compassion meets compassion. Jesus does not get upset. Instead, his heart goes out to this man who cannot even represent himself. His extraordinary friends do what they can to help this man encounter the one who can change his life around. These gracious friends give the silent man with paralysis what he most deeply desires. He wants to walk straight and tall. Jesus wants to heal him in the deepest way possible - through the forgiveness of sins.
            Most of us, if not all, have something within us where we feel shame - whether it is a disability, a sin committed against us, an addiction, or not being gifted as abundantly as another person. We dislike being identified in our entirety with that condition. We don't want to be a paralytic, but rather a person suffering from paralysis. I can imagine that if I were the man being lowered through the roof, like a spectacle, that I would feel humiliated - truly paralyzed. All those eyes upon me would make me implode. I do not want the attention on me or on my condition that defines me. I do not want it publicized so others may have pity on me or show me ridicule. It creates a power imbalance I would want to avoid. I would rather not be lowered than to have my shame exposed. I would probably be cursing my good-intentioned friends for placing me in such an exposed situation. If I am to be fully revealed, I want it at my own pace and at a time when my free will tells me I am ready.
            However, this is where the compassion of Jesus changes everything for me. When he looks upon me, all my fears and worries melt away. His warm eyes and relaxed smile tell me that he sincerely cares for me and the prior activities of the room are of second importance. He wants me radically free interiorly so I can experience the fullness of life and care for others as he does. He wants my happiness and he wants me to receive the forgiveness that he generously offers - a forgiveness that accepts my disability and sees way beyond it.
            What do I do? I fight. I resist. I hold onto the shame around my condition fiercely. It is what I know and what has defined me. I cannot let go too easily. I have long been a scrapper and it is not in my nature to open my palms to him to receive his offer. Instead, I clench my fists and yell, "Why don't you help me?"
            In front of him, I feel my brokenness. There is an affective things inside of me that is out of control and I am mired in the horror and disorder of my life. I examine how I move from my behavior to a disordered affection that causes my behavior. It becomes habitual and I cannot stop it for it controls me. In fact, I am out of control. When I do something whacked out, I see that it is not only a singular instance that I do something, but that I do it all the time. I come to an overwhelming powerful sense that I sin all the time. I am trapped. I am unable to love my life. I realize I need a savior - and my attention is brought back to those gentle compassionate eyes that beg me to look deeper into his. Deep down, I want what he offers. I may have thought I wanted physical healing of my paralysis, but I really want the forgiveness of sins that keep me bound in my dysfunctional habits and patterns. I want to be free and my freedom has to come from outside myself. I cannot do it by myself. Jesus alone offers it to me.
            It causes me to reflect on what exactly this man offers me. In his disability, when he is a man with paralysis because his arms and legs are immobile because they are nailed to the cross, I gaze upon him and speak to him as a friend, and I ask him, "What have you done for me?," "What are you doing for me?," and "What ought you to do for me?" I see him on the Cross still looking upon me with those compassionate eyes and he still honors me. He still hears my story and yet he wants to tell me of the ways he has, is, and wants to free me. He asks me to receive his compassion because it melts away all the chains that we hold dear.
            I am convinced that Christ's compassion can change our world, like it did for the man who was once paralyzed. It has mine. If we can hold our story and one another's more reverently, it will create an environment in which less hurt and harm is created. It will create a world that is more sympathetic, understanding, and tolerant. It will help a person feel connected and become more whole. We live in hope that people can see themselves as more beautiful gifts to themselves and to others.
            The compassion of Jesus for others cost him dearly. The Pharisees and Herodians plotted against him. He had to take that risk and he will always choose it - for you - because his heart is wounded for you. Stop your fighting. Accept his offer. Get out of your head and let him open your heart so you can receive his forgiveness and healing. Hear him tell you, "Get up, my child and walk. Rise. Take up your mat. I have called you for freedom. Live in my love where compassion reigns. You are worth so much to me and I want the very best for you. Give me the pain you hold so close. I will bring it to the cross. I want you to be free. Will you come?"