The inspiring story of the healing, and forgiveness, of the paralytic offers encouragement and hope for individuals needing healing, mercy from God. But does this story have any relevance in Lent 2020? The entire world is grappling with a potent and often deadly virus. World economies are battling to stay afloat. This follows intense assaults of fires and other effects of global climate change. And it is mired in ooze of divisive politics and political strife. For a single crippled guy carried by friends to Jesus is one thing. WHAT would be the relevance for a world paralyzed by fear and stormy upheaval responding to or a result of a pandemic of paralysis where even the faith and worship of those seeking God are deeply impacted.
The connection is profound and timely.
Whether we look to the lesson of the paralytic or the Gospel accounts of Jesus walking on the stormy sea and seeking Peter (and us) to trust and come to Him the parallels are clear. There is no storm, no paralysis, no pandemic or sin that catches God by surprise.
None of us on Ash Wednesday anticipated that by the Fourth Sunday of Lent our normal community Lenten journey would be essentially closed. Masses, other Sacramental liturgies, devotional groups and religious education would be closed. Most of us would be confined to our homes except for necessary outings, at least here in California. Thousands would be laid off from their jobs and schools would be closed. The storm of the virus pandemic has brought a Lent like no other. And there is a real potential that Holy Week, Easter, jobs, schools..LIFE will be impacted for considerable time.
Many may be like the disciples in the boat where Jesus was with them. And as the storm intensified, Jesus slept! Where is God in all this? Others of little or no faith in God are urgently interceding and placing their faith in medicine and science for healing…for salvation. [Medicine and science are truly great blessings for and of human dedication and skill. But they are not God, even if idolized by many enthralled with the gospel of human reason].
Where is God when, this extraordinary Lenten season, the sacraments of Mass, Reconciliation, HEALING, and the others may be unable to be exercised as they normally would and are so needed. Where is Jesus when Holy Week and the Easter season may come and churches may yet be closed?
These difficult realities bring us to confront our own paralyzing fears, doubts, failings of our own seeking to follow God. We are brought to reel as the vessels of our faith are tossed by the storms and beset by darkness. Where is the peace, the healing, the mercy we, our world, so needs?
In His Presence. In the Lord. It was as the faith-filled men brought their crippled friend into the PRESENCE of God, the PRESENCE of Jesus that the answer was realized. It was as the disciples, as Peter recognized the PRESENCE of Jesus with them, in the storms the solution was found. Their RELATIONSHIP with JESUS GREW.
Jesus allows all of us to encounter circumstances that may surprise and overwhelm us. Throughout Scripture [Old and New Testament] and throughout history the stormy battles of good and evil, the cruel paralysis and viral infections of sin have been part of our human existence. Yet God, in each crises will bring the faithful through. The physical vessel [our bodies] may suffer and even die. But the healing, help, mercy of God will always prevail for soul and spirit, and often, our bodies too.
But we must allow God to call us, bring us closer into His Presence. This may well result in Jesus callings out of the boat to walk on the water. Jesus may well call us out of our comfortable God boxes to take steps of faith that will bring us into His healing and holy embrace.
For many their God boxes may be their understandings..of life..of God..the Church and of each other and….and ourselves. This season of Lent the very holy and blessed graces of the Sacraments are not available, for many, as they normally would be. For some this would be an example of a significant God box. How can I truly participate in Lent if I can’t go to Mass, Confession, Holy Week? For some the loss of income forces them out of the comfort of that paycheck. For students, the challenging security of classes is not where it should be.
For all of us God is calling, THROUGH the past fires, the power outages, sicknesses, and deaths and now this global pandemic. God is calling us to trust and allow His healing and mercy to tend our wounds and to cause us to grow stronger in God’s Presence.
HEALING and MERCY
Jesus was very honest. He told us that in the world we will have tribulations. But He promised that He would be with us…always [John 14-16]. In the promised Presence of Christ the Living Word we can hear God speak to our hearts and to the raging storm..”peace be still”. In The Presence of the promised Holy Spirit we celebrate the same power and Presence of God who changes the bread and wine into His Eucharistic Presence and who changes our turmoil and stress into God’s grace and strength.
In our weary woundedness God will bring us to share in the real suffering of Christ for needed mercy for the world. In our weary woundedness God brings a struggling community of faith to be a place of healing, mercy and hope for the world. It is in entering into God’s wounds, we are healed in His mercy.
This season of Lent, this coming Holy Week and Easter will be like no other. We face great unknowns and difficulties. There may be greater sorrows or worries yet to be faced. Yet, as always God is calling us.
We may not share the Eucharistic Feast as we would long.
We may, instead be the Body and Blood of Christ for each other.
We may not have the peace and freedom that we cherish.
Except that which is in our hearts, to be shared.
We may not know how or where our income will be.
But we will know the provisions of God as never before.
We may not experience the full richness of sacramental reconciliation.
But we will know God’s forgiveness,
As we forgive.