The Child Before You
A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark 2:2-12
Humanity likes the “Easy Button!” We live in a world of easy; cars that park themselves, robot vacuums, persistent technology-enabled communication, and asking “Alexa” for the answer. Yet, does the “easy” really bring the deeper life to me or the other, ever? Love involves hard work. Reality, real living, often means having to dig through a roof.
We hear the ultimate address of love in St Mark’s account of the healing of the paralytic. Jesus’ first word to this sick and suffering man was to address him as, “child.” The word in Greek is tĕknŏn (τέκνον) which means son, daughter, or child. It is the highest form of intimate familial address. It is the way a father addresses a beloved and wounded child. Yet, it is a strange way for a Jewish stranger to address a very sick man whose friends just lowered him through the roof to get to Jesus. For the paralyzed man, he does not experience Jesus’ anger at the interruption or damage to the house. He does not experience shock, fear, or harsh words. The first words he hears are formed with love. How should we react to those who inconvenience, anger, or startle us? Imagine how you would address your own beloved child, brother, or sister. What is the easy response?
Author’s Photograph from the St John Paul II Center Washington DC
The sick, especially the chronically sick, were outsiders in the Jewish culture of the time. Illness, especially chronic illness, such as paralysis, was attributed to either the sin of the sick person or the sin of his or her parents. People would avoid them, recoil from the sight of them with horror. They are perhaps, “objects” of pity whom you give money to to shoo them away. They are an inconvenience to be avoided. Recall how people around Jesus treated the blind man in the Gospel of Luke calling out to Jesus,
“The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” (Luke 18:39 NABRE)
The chronically sick are not someone you would address as “child” at your first meeting. Recall how even the disciples, with very little empathy or compassion, ask Jesus in John 9:2 as they pass a poor blind man,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 NABRE)
The Scribes and Pharisees often avoided the sick because of their supposed sin and their desire to remain ritually pure. Perhaps that is why the sick could not get to Jesus, and his friends had to go to extraordinary lengths to help him. Remember those who passed the beaten and dying Samaritan on the other side of the road? (Luke 10:31–33) Yet Jesus turns to this man as a beloved son and says, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
The Gospel today is a call for us to recognize the need to treat everyone as a beloved child of the Father. This must be the case especially for those who exist on the edges of society without hope, even those who can’t come through the crowd to Jesus because of the distractions of pleasure, power, ambition, or greed, or for those who believe that they are lost and beyond God’s love. There is no one so far outside the pale, paralyzed by sin, who Jesus is not yearning to say to them; “Child, your sins are forgiven, I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
The Gospel today is also a call to the faithful to be the four men on the roof, the people of faith who care for all the children of God as a loving brother or sister. The roofs in Jesus’ time were thick with layers of rock and soil. You had to dig through them. It is hard and dirty work to bring someone in disparate need of healing to the Lord. But because it is hard does not mean that we should give up. In the Gospel, it is not the faith of the paralytic which heals. Healing occurs because of the faith of the four friends. They refuse to hit the easy button! To ignore someone sick with sin and estranged from God is truly a form of hate, for we leave them in that condition, treat them as objects of pity and still, “pass on the other side of the road.”(Luke 10:31-32) To love someone is to dig through a roof, if it is necessary, to bring them to truth, Christ.
Truly great are the works of God! And the greatest work of God on earth is man. The glory of God is man fully alive with the life of God. The glory of God is the holiness of each person and of the whole Church. Holiness is the work of divine grace. (St John Paul II Homily 8 February 1986)
We have just left the Christmas season, the descent of heavenly glory into flesh, into the darkness and filth of sin, to gift us with true life. We are now in Ordinary Time, the season of commissioning and action. Christ when he heals, restores the other to life, for only in Him do we become fully alive. We are commissioned to bring the other to Christ, to offer healing and true life. This is not easy, but it is the love God commands!
Consider today, is there someone you know who is suffering in despair through chronic sickness, or worse, the paralysis of sin? Is there someone pushed to the outside, left out in the cold, because others turn away from or avoid them as, inconvenient or not worthy of God’s love? Today is the day to be a true friend, a beloved brother or sister, who is willing to dig through a roof to get that child of God to Jesus so that they may hear Jesus call them “child” and heal the soul and body. We cannot hit the “Easy Button.” Instead, we must dig through roofs. For the one before us is a beloved child of God.
St John Paul II. Homilies of Pope John Paul II (English). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014. Print.
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.