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Go to Jesus!
Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.” Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the gift of your word. Like the crowds in the Gospel today, I also glorify you for your marvelous action in the life of this paralytic. I ask you to work in my life too. Enlighten my heart and mind to perceive your message for me today.
- Overcoming Obstacles: The paralytic wanted to see Jesus, but it was impossible for him. He had lost the use of his own body and was therefore powerless to effect his own will. We can experience a similar paralysis when we’re trapped by sin, addiction, or selfishness. We identify with St. Paul when he writes in Romans 7:14-15: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” The paralytic is thus an image of our own struggle against the physical and spiritual bondage of sin. But something else kept the paralytic from Jesus’s presence: the crowds. How often we feel “crowded out” during prayer. God seems distant. Plagued by distractions, we can’t focus. How are we to get his attention?
- Solutions: The paralytic’s friends solved the first obstacle by carrying him to Jesus—and here we have a symbol of Mother Church. When we are faced with problems beyond our strength, we can receive support and encouragement from our family, our community, and other believers. From the sacraments of the Church, we receive the grace and strength of Christ who heals and fortifies us. The second difficulty–God’s seeming indifference–is resolved when we see that the Lord healed the paralytic even more deeply than the paralytic himself had desired; he forgave his sins. This spiritual healing is by far the more important. The physical healing is, in fact, subordinated to the deeper spiritual healing that occurs. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Jesus, because he loved the paralytic and heard his prayer, gave him both healings.
- Glory to God: The people were astonished. The crowd glorified God. Jesus, too, had glorified his Father because it was the Father’s will to heal the man—the enigmatic phrase “the power of the Lord was with him for healing” would seem to support that. Lastly, we note that the man himself also glorified God. His persistence and faith in trying to reach Jesus flowered into a greater outpouring of grace than expected. God is never outdone in generosity.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, maybe I am not paralyzed, but I need help to get to you just the same. Why is it so hard to put myself in your presence? During my prayer, help me to rely not on my own strength but on the faith of the Church and in your desire to meet me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a couple of moments in silence to put myself in your presence.
For Further Reflection: If you need to lean on the Church for spiritual support this Advent, trying praying Lauds each morning from the Liturgy of the Hours. These hymns and psalms of praise lift up our hearts and unite us to Catholics all over the world.
Written by Br. Erik Burckel, LC.