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99. Going Through the Roof (Mark 2:1-12)

February 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Meditations, The Better Part

“And we too can only serve the Lord energetically if our faith thrives and is present in abundance.” - Pope Benedict XVI

Mark 2:1-12: When he returned to Capernaum some time later, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, ‘How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?’ Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, ‘Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven or to say, Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.’ And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’

Christ the Lord  Many critics of Christianity claim that Christ was just one of those great philosophers or religious teachers like Confucius and Socrates – that he was only raised to divine status by later generations of his followers. This passage is one of the many New Testament scenes that prove such a position untenable.

Christ’s divine authority shines through clearly in the Gospels. Jesus does not deny that the authority to forgive sins belongs only to God, since every sin, every evil deed is primarily an offense against God, the source of all goodness and truth, and  unjustly uses God’s great gift to men, free will, as an instrument of rebellion against the Giver, but he uses a miracle to prove that he possesses that divine authority. He claims to be not only the Messiah sent by God (“the Son of Man” is a Messianic title taken from the Jewish Scriptures), but to possess God’s own divinity. He himself forgives the man’s sins in his own name. He leaves no room for doubt; he is the Lord of both earth and heaven.

St. Mark gives us another detail that illustrates what kind of a Lord he is. Jesus knows exactly what his critics are thinking; he can read their souls. They are offended by him; they are irked, even outraged, at his apparently blasphemous claim to forgive sins. Instead of voicing their objections, however, they grumble in their hearts. But Jesus sees the entire interior drama. What does he do with this privileged knowledge? Does he brandish it to humiliate his unjust critics? No, he much prefers to use it for their good. Knowing how difficult it is for them to accept his claims, and how reluctant they are to engage in honest dialogue with him, he gives them irrefutable evidence to validate those claims. Our Lord wants to rule by love and truth, not by force.

Christ the Teacher  The paralytic emerges from this encounter healed in soul and in body. Why did Christ heal him? Because he “saw their faith.” This group of friends believed in Christ’s power to heal, to make whole, to right what was wrong. And they showed the sincerity of that faith in their ingenious, determined efforts to meet him. How easy it would have been for them not to take the first step of lugging the paralytic all the way over to the place where Jesus was preaching! How easy it would have been for them to become discouraged when they realized that the crowd was impenetrable! And yet, their faith prevailed; they found a way to bring the paralytic to the Master’s feet. In a sense, their faith had already performed the physical miracle; the paralyzed man had made his way closer to Christ than most of the others who were in the crowd. And it was this faith – clearly authentic because it produced action – that opened the suffering man’s soul to receive Jesus’ gift of peace.

In an age when Christ is only a stone’s throw away, right there in the tabernacle of the nearest Catholic chapel; in an age when confession is available upon request down the street at the local parish; in an age when the revealed Word of God and the teachings of the Church can fit into a handheld computer – in such an age we need to relearn this lesson of faith. What we take for granted – the presence of the Living God among us – these men struggled and sacrificed and risked their reputations to find. The next time we have difficulty getting out of bed for Mass (or getting someone else out of bed for Mass), we should call to mind the picture of this paralytic, who wanted to get to “Mass” so badly that he had his friends bring his bed along with him.

Christ the Friend  Does Christ let anyone down in the Gospels? Does anyone who comes to Christ with a sincere, docile, and generous attitude go away disappointed? Not a one. And yet, they had much less to bolster their faith than we have. They had only rumors of miracles; we have the whole New Testament, the Resurrection, and twenty centuries of miracles through the action of the Church and its countless saints.

Jesus Christ wants to unlock for us life’s secret treasures, to unleash on earth the abundance of heavenly joy. That’s why he came –to give us what we long for, to lead us where we yearn to go. He asks only that we heed his call: “Follow me.” He’ll take care of everything else.

Jesus: Their faith opened up the flow of my grace into their lives. Their faith gave them an experience of my presence that no one else in that huge crowd had. They believed in me. But before they arrived, they didn’t believe so strongly. Their faith increased a little bit when they realized that they couldn’t come close to me through the crowd, and then decided not to give up but to search for some other way. And when they couldn’t find any other way and kept searching anyhow, their faith grew even more. Then, when they hit upon the idea of climbing up onto the roof with their paralyzed friend, and they made the effort to open up the roof and lower him down in front of me – when that happened, their faith flowered, and they received their reward… Whenever I allow you to face obstacles in life, remember their example. Remember that the more you have to exercise your faith, the more it will grow, and the more my grace will be able to flow.

Christ in My Life  I believe in you, Lord, but my faith is so weak! It’s like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree: there, but scrawny. Strengthen it, Lord, please. How can I be the saint you want me to be, how can I live the fruitful, meaningful life you created me to live, how can I fulfill the mission – unique and unrepeatable – that you have entrusted to me, unless you increase my faith?

At times I feel as though my soul is paralyzed, like this man’s body. I’m unable to do the good that I know I should do and that I long to do. My sinful habits inhibit me. My selfishness, my arrogance, my laziness, and my love for pleasure – I have cultivated these so well that virtue is held in check. Heal me, Jesus, please; reanimate my capacity to love, because that’s what you created me for…

So many people around me are even more paralyzed than I am. They need me and my fellow Christians to bring them to you, so they can meet you, and you can pour your grace into their souls. Who do you want me to bring to you? I will do it, Lord, even if I have to strip a hole in the roof – I only ask that you fill my heart with your very own courage and goodness…

 

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published two other titles: "Meditations for Mothers" and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", Inside the Passion--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Meditations for Mothers, and A Guide to Christian Meditation.

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  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    “Whenever I allow you to face obstacles in life, remember their example.” 
    Thank you, Father John. This is what I needed to hear from Jesus to-day…I am confused, frightened, overwhelmed, lonely, alone and unsure of what exactly Jesus wants me to do….those words have given me hope…may He grant me patience to wait for His inspiration on what I need to do

  • New Name

    Thank you Father John.

    Please pray for my mother who is dying. 

    Thank you so much.

    • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

      New Name.  We shall remember your mother this evening when we pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy with my little Family. Jesus particularly recommended it for the dying with the promise that if the Chaplet is prayed at the bedside of the dying, He Himself will defend that soul as His very own at the time of death, and forgive that soul all its sins and punishment thereof. In other words, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, when prayed for the dying, Jesus grants that soul a Plenary Indulgence. I shall also pray for your mother tomorrow at 3.00 O’Clock – The Hour of Great Mercy – before the Blessed Sacrament.  No doubt all our Respondents on this Website will keep your mother in their Prayers, too.  I have posted the Chaplet above in response to Judeen. Please pray it often for your Mother.  Our Merciful Saviour is with you during this trying time and He will hear our Prayers

      • New Name

         Thank you so much.  My mother died today at around 1:15 pm (I’m just now getting back to the site after trying to keep up with all the graciousness of family and friends).  She was a woman of great faith and truly loved the Lord.  Thank you so much for all the prayers.

        • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

          My condolences to you.  Be assured the Divine Mercy Chaplet we prayed as a Family for her hours before she died was received and answered. Christ’s Promise regarding the Chaplet, when prayed for the dying gives me hope she is in Heaven now.  I also prayed for her again before I went to bed. May she rest in Peace of Christ.  We shall continue to pray for your Family during this difficult time.

          • New Name

             Thank you Mary.  She was an amazing woman (not saying that just because she was my mother but because all she did in life and her great faith in Jesus and the Eucharist)…now she rejoices in the glory of the Lord.  I am at peace with her death and happy for her.  I have moments of sadness but it’s mostly joy for her.
            O death where is your victory?  O death where is your sting?  Praise be to  God who raises us up to new life in Christ.
            Thanks again Mary.

        • Anonymous

          Be assured of my prayers

          • New Name

             Thank you Dan.  Beautiful death.  No struggle, no pain, just very peaceful.  I am so happy for her…maybe a little holy jealousy, too!  Ha!  Thanks so much.  She was a very, very faithful Catholic.

  • judeen

    this reminds me of the hard chooses we make in our lives… we need God to help us choose.. how do we react if someone in our family is mean..?abusive? how do we handle it.. or a tribe is killing our tribe.. are they the parilized on the stretcher? do we fight back? do we love? our enemys are powers and principalitys… so how do we reclaim people for God and stop the sickness? the answer- is love.. so how do we love?  found in prison.. strick hard ways , from guards dont get anywhere,, the people keep doing things… but if they are firm in what is right, yet have  guiding , helping hand.. it makes a difference.. so how do we overcome these force in our families.. act as Jesus wants us to act… firm , but gentle. stand up for what is right… yet… in love

    • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

      judeen, this very powerful Prayer dictated by Jesus Christ Himself is the answer to your question :  
      It is the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy prayed using the beads of the Holy Rosary
      You begin with the Sign of the Cross – then pray One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One I believe in God…

      ( At each Decade) “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. (x1 ) 

      ( on the Hail Mary beads) For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (x 10)

      ( In closing) “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”  (x 3) The closing Prayer : “Eternal God, in Whom Mercy is endless and the Treasury of Compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your Mercy in us that in difficult moments, we may not despair nor become despondent but with great confidence, submit ourselves to Your Holy Will which is Love and Mercy itself. Amen ”

      It is especially very powerful when prayed at 3.00 O’Clock – The Hour of Great Mercy but you can pray this Chaplet any time and as many times as you wish.  Be blessed.