Homily: Healing Paralysis

      Isaiah 43: 18-25         2 Corinthians 1: 18-22           Mark 2: 1-12 

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus was definitely out to cause trouble, and He can’t have been disappointed!  The healing of the paralytic belongs to the section that begins with the exorcism of the unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue at Capernaum, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the cleansing of the leper.  Mark hurries us from incident to incident, showing how, from the very beginning, Jesus’ ministry (significantly in the synagogues) provokes conflict with the scribes.

Mark flags the forthcoming clashes over Sabbath observance in the first healing.  In last week’s gospel text, Jesus usurps the priestly authority to declare lepers clean.  This week, he goes even further: he attacks their sole claim to forgive sin, and is declared a blasphemer.  This is the charge on which he will eventually be executed.  From the very beginning, in other words, the shadow of the cross hangs over all that Jesus is doing.

Taking on the powers

This isn’t an attempt to read something clever or fanciful into the texts.  Jesus’ messianic ministry is a very deliberate taking on of the powers of the day that imprison and exclude – in particular, the purity system.  He is wresting control of the levers of power from the power-holders, and they don’t like it one bit!

Mark goes to extraordinary lengths to tell us that to be the Messiah meant going to the cross.  But whereas Paul locates that necessity in the Father’s eternal plan for salvation, Mark tracks its necessity through Jesus’ ministry.

Given what Jesus was doing and the powers ranged against him, one side or the other had to lose.  And it was to be Jesus.  The awfulness of his death was that the powers of death and destruction appeared to win – indeed, they did win! — and the wonder of the resurrection is that God brings something new and ultimately undefeatable from the ashes of the total failure of Jesus’ mission of liberating grace.            Lawrence Moore


                          Gospel Summary

But let’s look more closely at the Gospel story, to see what it means to you and to me. First of all, we shouldn’t be distracted by the ingenious efforts of the paralytic’s friends to lower him through the roof because they couldn’t get through the crowd. After all, this story is about salvation, not about engineering!

Jesus seems to have sought out paralytics, because his miracles are so often for their benefit. You see, the miracles of Jesus were intended to show that He came to liberate; and so, people with “frozen” muscles were prime candidates for illustrating this.

The story also makes it clear that the real liberation brought by Jesus is spiritual and eternal. He reveals this when He declares that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven. Because this is the only liberation that we absolutely must have. Cure of a physical ailment is so very desirable, but it’s only a temporary relief.

The scribes are shocked and scandalized to hear Jesus proclaim forgiveness of sins. And, instead of rejoicing to hear that this wonderful power is now available, they choose to cling to their own narrow interpretation of religion. Human knowledge alone ultimately always seems to make us look for the worst possible outcome..


                  Life Implication

In so many ways, we are all victims of paralysis in the sense that we find it very difficult to realize our potential. Low self-esteem, expressed usually in our fear of trying something new or of making a mistake, not only denies others the benefit of our gifts but also contributes to our own unhappiness.

The only solution to this dilemma is our willingness to trust the goodness that God has put in our lives–a goodness that is revealed to us by the gift of faith.

When we talk of faith, we mean far more than merely accepting the words of the Creed. Faith’s real purpose is to enable us to trust the goodness that comes to us from God; but

it also comes from loving persons in our lives, and from the beauty of God’s creation itself. Faith enables us to see the often hidden goodness in life–a goodness that is sometimes hard to discern, but which is always available to those who are looking for

The effect of this experience of goodness is to liberate us and so to enable us to let go of the evil and hurt that are so very much a part of every life.

This power of faith in our lives is not something that we can discover by simply wishing for it. Like the paralyzed man in this story, we too need to count on our friends. They are much more willing that we can imagine to utter those precious words: “Your sins are forgiven,” and, “Rise, pick up your mat and walk.” And when this happens, we will gladly join all those others in declaring, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.




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