When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was not at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bring to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, the opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
A couple of days ago I began reflecting on today’s Gospel passage. I was having a hard time wrapping my thoughts around it. On Friday, I saw a booklet entitled, “Living with Christ. I opened it up and read a reflection for this Sunday’s Gospel. The reflection was entitled, “God comes in surprising ways.” First of all, I know that God’s ways are numerous. I would even say that God’s ways are amazing. But to say that they are surprising? If that were the case, then it would mean the Lord was unpredictable. And if God is unpredictable, then it would mean He was unreliable. Secondly, how in the world can we say that God comes to us in surprising ways given today’s Gospel reading of the paralytic man! If anything, we would have to say that “Man comes to God in surprising ways!” This man was willing to go through Hell to get to God! He was determined to do whatever it took to get closer to the Lord! His story should be our story. This story is beautiful in many ways.
The paralytic was carried by four men. We think we are strong, and most of the time we are. But there comes a time in our life when we cannot do it alone. Often in our lives, we need others to help us get to God. We cannot always do it alone. Do you realize that your prayers can actually lift people up and help bring them closer to God?
When Jesus saw their faith. A priest takes vows in order to increase his faith, hope and love in the Lord. Married couples take vows in order to increase their faith, hope and love for one another and in the Lord. I am sure that all of us feel close to our spouse when we are experiencing good times and good health. But what is striking – absolutely shocking – is how we can actually come closer to our spouse and to God when we are experiencing bad times and bad health! This is what has surprised me the most in my life!
There was no longer room for them. It is not surprising in the least that the faithful were seated next to Jesus. Those who are blessed feel close to God. What is utterly shocking to us are how those who have suffered the most are the most determined to get closer to God! Instead of backing away, instead of saying, “You did this to me! I don’t want anything to do with you.” No! Those who suffer the most insist on getting closer to God! And they succeed!
God’s ways are normal ways. God comes to us through prayer, through Scripture, through the Eucharist, Confession, the Sacraments, sacrifice and humility. These are safe and sure paths that bring us in God’s presence. Of course the Lord can do whatever he wants to get to us, and he does! But what is stunning – absolutely surprising – is how suffering motivates us to get closer to God! And how it works!
Many churches lack one segment of society: teenagers. On average, teenagers lack faith because they feel very strong. They say, “I don’t need God.” They can say that because everybody is supporting them. Life is good for them…so far. They say to themselves, “My legs and arms feel strong, my mind and body are quick and flexible. My heart is in good shape. My knees still bend. But what a teenager does not do for himself, God will eventually do for him. And it is no surprise.
The elderly and the wise go to Mass because they know that one day they will lose it all. They will no longer be able to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, and stand tall as they once stood tall.
The wise (and the elderly) know what it takes to get closer to God and are determined to succeed!
We all go through loss in our life time: Loss of a job, loss of friends, loss of loved ones, loss of family members, loss of health and loss of life. Nothing new here. But what is amazing, utterly shocking, is that the Son of God was willing to go through it too; out of love for His Father and out of love for me; to get closer to His Father and closer to me!