Parish Office
16150 St. Anthony Rd.
Emmitsburg, MD. 21727
Phone: 301-447-2367

 
 

Rise, Pick up Your Mat and Walk

Deacon John Hawkins

One nice attraction of our 11:00 Mass is that it gives our families the option of allowing their children to sleep in. Making sure that children get enough sleep is essential for any family. I think that most parents would agree that it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

But children going to bed on time is also important. At home, thatís my job! Iím in charge of the bedtime routine. At least I like to think that I am. Let me explain.

When my 4 kids were much younger, there wasn8 0t a whole lot of wiggle room about bed times during the school week. There were four bedtimes, each separated by 20 minute intervals. The youngest went to bed 1st, and the oldest went last.

I remember a school night years ago that reminds me of one of the major themes of todayís gospel message. Itís the theme of "authority." And my story goes this way.

My wife, Diane, had to go into work after dinner, and she wasnít going to be home until late. Before she left for work she reminded each child of what they had to do before they went to bed and WHEN to go to bed.

I remember that evening we were all just hanging out. When it came time to begin the bedtime routine, my youngest asked me if he could stay up longer. We were all having such a nice time together, so I said "sure you can." The older 3 immediately said that if he was allowed to stay up beyond his bedtime, then it was only fair that they could too. I agreed.

Later that evening, I heard our dog bark at the door. I got up from the couch, looked out the window and saw my wifeís car pull into the driveway. And I calmly announced "Hey, it looks like mom got off work early."

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By their reaction, you would have thought that I had yelled "fire!" All four of them instantly dropped what they were doing and took off upstairs for their bedrooms.

My children knew then and still know today that my wife is the "real deal" when it comes to "having authority" in our family.

Now, have you noticed how this same theme of "real" AUTHORITY has also been woven into the gospel readings for the last four weeks? Letís go back and hit some of the highlights.

Recall how, three weeks ago, in the gospel, we found Jesus with his fellow townspeople in the Synagogue. During a synagogue service, any qualified Jewish male could be invited to get up and preach. On this particular Sabbath day, Jesus speaks.

And the people are astonished at his teaching. He is not like the scribes who often taught. When they taught, they were primarily explaining the given meaning of the Old Testament Law from the sacred books.

The people realize that Jesus was not sharing someone elseís teaching and interpretation. He was giving his own. He was teaching something new, and he was his own AUTHORITY.

But Jesus not only spoke with AUTHORITY. He also acted wi th AUTHORITY. Recall how in the same Synagogue there was a man with an "unclean spirit."

Jesus shows no fear in the presence of the spirit and cures the possessed man - not with an elaborate and lengthy ritual, but by His Word alone, as he says to the unclean spirit "Quiet! Come out of him."

And then, two weeks ago, we heard about Peterís mother-in-law who was in bed with a fever. Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. The fact that she was able to serve them indicates the completeness of her healing.

Last week we heard about a man with leprosy who came to Jesus begging--saying, "If you choose, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy left the man, and he was made clean.

And this week we hear about the healing of the paralytic. But todayís gospel is more than a miracle story. Itís deeper than a story of Jesusí authority to physically heal us. Today Jesus demonstrates a NEW form of authority---Today we witness Jesusí authority to forgive sins.

But this authority comes with problems for Jesus. When He said to the paralytic "Child, your sins are forgiven," this really upset the Scribes. You see, in Jesusí day, illness was considered punishment for oneís personal sin or the sins of oneís parents.

Sooooo-- the manís paralysis in todayís Gospel was seen by the people as a punishment for some sin in his own life, or in that of his parents. By saying that the paralytics sins are forgiven, the Scribes thought that Jesus had blasphemed God, because only God could forgive sins.

Jesus understood their way of thinking, so he then says to the paralytic "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat and go home." The man rose, picked up his mat at once, and left the house. Jesus gave those who doubted visible proof that the manís sins were forgiven through His own authority.

And todayís Good News of Jesus Christ is that nothing has changed. Jesusí healing ministry of the forgiveness of sins is offered to us as well. We all need forgiveness at different times in our lives, and todayís gospel invites us to open ourselves to Godís healing ministry.

This open invitation brings us to todayís question. In what areas of our lives do we suffer from "spiritual paralysis? In what areas of our lives do we need forgiveness?

1. Do we harbor jealousy, envy, self-centeredness, addictions, gossip, bullying, revenge, greed, lust, hatred, apathy or anger?

2. We hear today how Jesus wants to forgive us, but do we refuse to forgive others or refuse to seek forgiveness from others?

3. Is there something in our lives that we are carrying around with us that makes us feel unworthy to be full and active members in our community?

4. Is there something in our lives so emotionally overwhelming that we hesitate to address it?

IF SO, find hope in knowing that todayís gospel reading reminds us that throughout Jesusí healing ministry he was willing and ready to serve everyone. He wasnít afraid or cautious to travel into places where there was fear, uneasiness, hostility or darkness.

During Jesusí earthly existence, as well as today - even at this very moment -Jesus wants to enter into our lives, even into places where we may be ashamed to meet him, and he wants to heal us.

Jesus is telling us that no matter how distant we may feel from him because of where we may find ourselves morally or spiritually, he is willing and ready to use his compassionate, merciful, and divine AUTHORITY to forgive us. Isnít that why he was sent! Isn‚Ä#t that why he came! In fact, He came especially for those of us who need healing. And doesn‚Ä#t that mean all of us!

But we have a responsibility in all of this. We have to do our part. Jesus calls us, he encourages us, he is willing to meet us more than half-way, his love for us unconditional. But we must respond, because he will never override our free will. There must be a desire on our part, a readiness to change our behavior and to be healed and reconciled.

In our Gospel, we heard how the four men so badly wanted their friend to be healed, but they could not reach Jesus because of the large crowd. In their determination, they climbed on top of the roof, cut a hole, and lowered their friend into Jesusí presence. The four friends had absolutely no doubts regarding Jesusí healing power. We are called to have the same desire, trust, and faith.

Paralysis, by definition, means an "inability to act." So spiritual paralysis is a form of being spiritually stuck. Often, in order to move us from point A to point B, we need to make time to reflect on our lives. The church in its wisdom offers us this opportunity.

This Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Church season of Lent. For the next six weeks, through our Sunday readings and Lenten Services, we will be invited to pause and take a hard, honest look at ourselves. During Lent we are invited to walk with Jesus and examine our hearts and our lives.

And then, at some point during Lent, consider living out todayís Gospel message and asking Jesus to heal us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Penance or Confession. This is what Jesus is inviting us to think about today. This is what Jesus is inviting us to pray about today.

If your 1st reaction to reconciliation is "I canít do that," then allow our faith community to carry you to the Lord. Weíll even provide the mat.

Our communal Reconciliation Service will be on Tuesday, March 24 at 7:00 at St. Anthonyís. For those of us who have never attended a communal penance service, I recommend giving it a try.

During the service we hear scripture that expresses Jesusí mercy and love for us, we have a group examination of conscience and group act of contrition. Then everyone goes to a priest for individual confessions. There are usually four priests present. The service is joyful, just as this Healing Sacrament is intended to be.

Also, Archbishop OíBrien has ini tiated a new program called "The Light is On For You." During Lent, every Wednesday, except on Ash Wednesday and the Wednesday of Holy Week, there will be a priest available in every parish to hear confessions from 7-8:30pm.

Now, whether weíre carried or whether we walk to the Lord, let us find strength, courage and joy in knowing that, through the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we encounter the same Jesus that the paralytic met 2000 years ago in that house in Capernaum. The same Jesus who, through the priest, is eager to use his compassionate, merciful, and divine authority to joyfully say to each of us, "Child, your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat and walk."