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Seeing the Depths of the Heart
Monday of the Second Week of Advent
(Optional Memorial of Saint Nicholas, bishop)
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, 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 Jesus 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 one 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: Dear Jesus, I draw close to you again for this time of prayer. Let me receive your word in my life today. Prepare my heart for your coming. Jesus, you are so good. Here you are, waiting for me to draw close to you. You are ready to receive me and listen to the deepest longings of my heart, perhaps even before I recognize my need to voice them. Let me enter this time of prayer and sit beside you, listen to you, and receive the word that you wish to speak to me. Don’t let the challenges and disappointments keep me back. I wish to give you my whole life, Jesus.
- Come In and Sit Down: Entering this passage, we take our place in the scene. What resonates most in our hearts as we encounter God’s word here? Perhaps we take a seat beside the teachers of the law, drawing nearer to get to know a bit more about this Jesus and his message. Or maybe we sit down–hidden, anonymous–one of the crowd about to witness a great miracle. Or perhaps we are carrying a loved one on that mat, in place of the paralytic. Or are you and I also paralytics, in need of the Lord’s healing? Placing ourselves in this scene, we humbly seek Our Lord’s unique blessings.
- Redirected Plans: The paralytic’s friends could not find a way in, but they didn’t give up at the first or the second “no.” They continued looking for a way to bring their friend to Jesus. We can sometimes get frustrated when our best efforts to reach out to Jesus seem to fail. What, or who, are we trying to bring to Jesus this Advent? How might Jesus be inviting us to press on—to find a creative, even if different or unexpected way, to break through the crowd, so as to bring souls to him?
- Faith That Jesus Sees to the Heart: Perhaps it surprises us, as it did the teachers of the law, that Jesus didn’t ask the paralytic or the Pharisees what they wanted. He simply said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” He saw right into the heart of this man and knew what he most needed. So too, he knew the hearts of the Pharisees. Perhaps they sincerely wondered, “Only God can do this. And yet, he has done this. What must that mean?” And Jesus answered, again, not with his voice, but with an unvoiced question, “Are you wondering if I have this authority? Let me show you: I will make the paralytic walk again and I will cleanse his sins.” What question might Jesus find in our own hearts as this Advent journey continues?
Conversing with Christ: You desire this season of Advent for my soul much more than I do. Make me long for your coming more and more. I need you, Jesus, just as this paralytic and his friends–and even these Pharisees–also needed you. I trust in you, Good Jesus, and I love you. Move my heart to respond to you in greater love, one step closer, on this Advent journey to the mangerside.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray throughout the day, “Jesus, I surrender to you. Take care of everything,” as an expression of my desire to let you do what and when you wish.
For Further Reflection: You may wish to read about St. Nicholas, whose feast the Church celebrates today.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid and Valencia, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families and young people she’s there to serve.