18 February 2012

THE BROKEN ROOF: BREAKING THE EXCLUSIVITY OF FORGIVING

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25 / Ps 41 / 2 Cor 1:18-22 / Mk 2:1-12


For two Sundays already, the Word of God has been guiding us through a deep reflection on the mystery of human suffering.  Two Sundays ago, we met a man named Job who, despite his righteousness, suffered unimaginably.  With the Old Testament view on human suffering as punishment for sins committed, the righteous Job echoes one of the most disturbing questions of man: “Why do the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper?”  That same Sunday, we saw Jesus surrounded by seemingly endless human suffering.  But while Jesus also had His own questions about human suffering, He was never satisfied with mere questioning.  He moved and cared for the suffering people around Him.  He healed them as much as He could and as much as they believed He could.  But more than performing miracles to alleviate the sufferings of those who went to Him, Jesus entered into the experience of human suffering, including death itself.  His questions about sufferings were not only about those of others but of His own sufferings as well, for He, too, though most righteous of all men, was persecuted, tortured, and murdered.  Yet, Jesus did not allow His own sufferings to imprison Him and make Him love less.  He shared in the sufferings of others even as He Himself was suffering too.

Last Sunday, leprosy took center-stage.  Jesus healed a leper by touching him.  Clearly, with the first reading last Sunday (Lev 13:1-2, 44-46) read before the Gospel was proclaimed, Jesus’ touching the leper, though it miraculously restored the leper to good health, painted a disturbing picture of Jesus – that of a law-breaker.  But, still, St. Paul the Apostle, in last Sunday’s second reading (1 Cor 10:31-11:1), presented Jesus, the “law-breaker”, as worthy of being imitated.  He even sounded with holy pride when St. Paul admonished us all: “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”  For if breaking the law means restoring a man his health and dignity, then, indeed, let us all be law-breakers.  Love is the greatest of all commandments and, therefore, should summarize all laws.  Loving – true and right loving – fulfills all moral laws.

But there is another kind of suffering that debilitates human beings more than physical and biological sufferings do.  Jesus calls it sin and shows us today that it is actually the easiest to heal among all human sufferings.

Four friends bring a paralytic to Jesus because they believe that Jesus can do something to ease the pain of their suffering friend.  The house is already jam packed.  There is no way they can bring their friend any inch closer to Jesus.  But they know how to bring their suffering friend to Jesus’ attention.  Breaking the roof above Jesus, they lower down their paralytic friend right in front of Jesus.  Perhaps amused, but more amazed, Jesus immediately sees the daring faith of the paralytic’s friends.  It is not manly arms but manly faith that broke the roof after all, just as it is the power of faith and not the force of law that breaks hearts so as to make them bleed for others.  More than a broken roof above Him, Jesus now sees a broken man before Him and tells him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Surprise!  The surprise is that Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic when those around them are expecting a cure.  Of course, they believe that restoring a sinner to grace is far more important than restoring a paralytic to health.  But that is not what they expect to see.  Thus, they are disappointed, not only surprised.

How many of us are likewise disappointed when we should actually be surprised by God?  Is it not true that we are disappointed because we expect God to follow our dictates rather than we following His will?  Imagine how many wonderful surprises from God we do not recognize and, therefore, fail to thank Him for because we refuse to see things the way God sees them.  How many miracles intended for us by God go to waste because we do not accept them since they do not conform to our own definition of what miracles should be?  Consider how less disappointed we can be and, therefore, happier, if only we really make God’s values our values, God’s ways our ways, God’s priorities our priorities in life.

The Word of God reminds us today to prioritize forgiving one another.  It challenges us to make God’s way our way: forgive.  It encourages us to make our own the value that God places on the spiritual healing more than physical cure.

But many people, like the scribes in the Gospel today, tend to limit the forgiveness of sins to God.  To them, Jesus throws these questions: “Do you believe in a God who hoards the gift of forgiveness to Himself?  Yes, God forgives sins, but is He the only one to do that?”  Come to think of it, those who claim that it is God’s exclusive right to forgive sins may actually be making an attempt to let them off the hook about bothering to forgive those who sin against them.  But that should not be so, as far as Jesus is concerned.  Thus, when He teaches His disciples to pray to the Father, He makes a significant part of that prayer the pledge to forgive: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”  Do we not see that in the prayer that Jesus taught us, He made our forgiveness of others the very condition of the Father’s forgiveness of us.  Moreover, appearing to His disciples on the very evening of His resurrection, and having breathed on them the Holy Spirit, Jesus assures, even as He instructs, them: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23).

In the mind of Jesus, we see that forgiveness is not the exclusive prerogative of God but the shared responsibility of all who call themselves His followers.  If St. Paul the Apostle admonishes us to imitate him as he imitates Jesus – and in fact he did in the second reading last Sunday – then let us forgive as Jesus forgives.  In the first reading today, the Lord Himself describes His way of forgiving: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.”  Clearly, Jesus intends to extend God’s practice of forgiving sins.  To us.  Jesus wants us, His followers, to imitate God’s way of forgiving sins.  Of course, forgiving those who sin against us is easier said than done, but we are not left on our own to do that.  St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in the second reading today that God has anointed us and given His Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

The Word of God teaches us today that the most profound healing a person can experience is forgiveness.  The Good News about this teaching is that this most profound healing a person can experience is easier to effect than physical or biological healing.  We know, for we have observed or experienced it ourselves, that spiritual wellness contributes significantly to good health, and medical condition of any sort – such as cancer, for example – may be a symptom of the need for forgiving others, forgiving the self, forgiving one’s past, and even forgiving God.  Stubborn refusal to forgive strongly hinders healing while openness to and actual forgiveness may bring about more than the onset of healing but definite healing itself.

We end our reflection, taking note that Lent will start next Wednesday.  We pray that the Lord may help us spend the Lenten season as a period of healing by forgiving.  Thus, even now we ask our selves some questions:  Whom do I need to forgive?  Whom do I need to release from his or her debilitating past?  On whom can I effect real healing by forgiving his or her sins?  Likewise, directed to our own healing, we ask:  What in my life needs healing?  Where can I find forgiveness so that I may healed?  Am I willing to ask forgiveness with all my heart?  Do I have the faith not only in the truth that forgiveness heals me but that I can really be forgiven no matter what my sins are and, when already forgiven, that I am truly forgiven?

The mystery of human suffering disturbs us all, for no one is exempted from it.  There is nothing wrong in questioning the sufferings of people around us as well as our own sufferings.  To share in the sufferings of others even as we ourselves are suffering is indeed very Christ-like.  But next time we ask our selves about someone’s suffering, we will do well to address our questions not only to God but to our selves as well.  Perhaps, that suffering someone needs our forgiveness and so he or she lingers in pain precisely because we keep on refusing to forgive him or her.  Or can it be that we are hindrances for him or her to receive the forgiveness we needs and we are indifferent to such an unfortunate situation.  And when we question God why we ourselves suffer, we should be wiser to search for the answer not only from Him but from us as well.  Forgive to heal.  Forgive to be healed.

If more roofs need to be broken so that more hearts may bleed with the potion of forgiveness that heals, let it be so.  We can endure more broken roofs but not more broken lives.

1 Comments:

At 10:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am but human Lord, weak, vulnerable,sometimes tempted to walk to the path of indifference, self centeredness and materialism.

Come Lord Jesus, as i come to you broken, heal me, heal your people, heal the world. make us whole again.
for it is Only You, Only You, in You
alone..... we believe. Amen.



-rory

 

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