1st Week OT(F): Hebrews 4.1-5, 11 and Mark 2.1-12
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
The source of our sickness is disobedience. What ails us, what dis-eases us, what stirs our peace and hacks at our trusting foundation is our failure to listen, to attend to the Word, to receive and collect in the Good News—all of the Good News not just the safe, cheery bits—all of the teachings of Christ, to bring them in, tend to them, and harvest their powerful fruit for our holiness, our witness, and our mission. Without the food of the Word made flesh, the truth of the faith, we are left to starve on a junk food diet of wishful thinking, emotive fantasy, destructive curiosity, and, finally, religious disobedience—an adolescent tantrum of the heart and mind that rebels against truth b/c knowing the truth is a step toward being freed from the slavery of sin, a step toward being made a slave to Christ. To be healed is to hear the Word spoken to your disobedience—to hear him and listen!
From Hebrews we read: “…we have received the Good News just as our ancestors did.” We have heard the same message, heard the same covenant, received the same law as did those who came before us in faith, “but the word that they heard did not profit them, for they were not united in faith with those who listened.” To be “united in faith with those who listened” is precisely what we mean when we use the word Tradition to point to some teaching that defines us as Catholics. We are able to stand here in Irving, TX in 2007 and reach back 100, 500, 1,000, 2,000 years and lay our hands on an ancient wisdom—not just information or knowledge, not just data and figures—but true wisdom, faithfully lived, sometimes messy, sometimes difficult, but always humane, always a record of honest struggle, a record of hard won holiness in spite of mistakes, in spite of error and sin and the heart’s failure. Our Tradition—Christ’s teachings—held in his Body, the Church, our Tradition is the record of our faith-family’s obedience. Everything we are and everything we have as Catholics is what they heard and it is what we are hearing even now.
We are united in faith with those who listened.
Yesterday our preacher was a leper. Today he is a man paralyzed. Lowered through the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching, the man is healed b/c he listens to the Word spoken to him. Not just hears but listens—takes in, welcomes in the Word. Hears and obeys. And notice too that Jesus saw the faith of those who brought the man to him. The man is brought to Christ by a crowd of saints, a crowd of those who listened. And it is their faith, the trust of the communion that moves Jesus to speak his healing Word.
Jesus, demonstrating to the scribes his authority as Lord, begins this healing miracle by saying to the paralytic, “I say to you…” You. Just you. Attend to my voice, hear my words, and obey. Listen. “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He hears and obeys—healed by a compelling Word of mercy, the Word who forgives his sins and brings him to faith, making him one of those who listened.
In your dis-ease, your paralysis, to whom do you listen? What word do your obey? You have (freely given) God’s revelation of Himself in scripture, in the magisterial interpretation of the tradition, in creation, and finally and uniquely in Jesus Christ. Who God is to us and for us is right there. What you need loosed can be loosed. What you need bound can be bound. Just listen: Child, your sins are forgiven!