Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Sunday Word

In the readings tomorrow, Saint Mark describes an incident, where some friends go to extraordinary lengths to get help for a friend, risking embarrassment and even a possible lawsuit.

The passage opens with Jesus “at home” in Capernaum in a house that the context suggests was either his or that of a close friend. Word gets out that he’s back in town and the neighbors begin to bang on the door, wanting to get close to him. Suddenly, the house is full of uninvited guests wanting to hear a word — so many that “there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door."

Standing on the fringes of the crowd were some men who had brought with them a “paralyzed man," carrying him on a mat or stretcher. We don’t know anything else about these men, other than their objective was to get their disabled friend in front of Jesus in what may have been a last-ditch rescue mission to save him from a life of begging in the streets or worse.

The crowd being too thick, the rescuers move immediately to Plan B. They dig a hole through the flat roof of the house and go deep in order to help, lowering their comrade right in front of Jesus regardless of embarrassment, cost or the perception of the others around them.

Here’s the point: From the perspective of the helpless chap on the mat. He is not too proud to ask for help, he accepts help, and if he had refused their help, he would have made it impossible for his friends to use their spiritual gifts.

When we are unwilling to ask for help, when we are unwilling to accept help, not only is the outcome bad for us, we also compound the tragedy by destroying a divine and sacred moment in which others have an opportunity to exercise their gifts and ministry in the Body of Christ. And that’s not a good thing.

For Jesus, that help was not merely a quick fix but rather a basic approach to the human crisis. For Jesus, the real enemy was the systemic disease of sin. In a culture where there was a deep belief in the connection between body and spirit, Jesus sought to rescue and repair the whole person — the basic rescue technique being the application of forgiveness, a lifeline of grace tossed to those drowning in a sea of sin and self-centeredness. It is real help freely offered.