Monday 7 December
Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.” Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”
Today’s gospel reminds me of the Flannery O’Connor quote: “I think most people come to the Church by means the Church does not allow.”
The “allowed” way of getting into someone’s house is the front door, not by tearing open the roof! But these friends were so desperate to have their friend healed that they did something radical, something “not allowed”–they tore open the roof and lowered their friend down into the midst of the crowd, so he could see Jesus and be healed.
But Jesus doesn’t just heal the paralytic’s physical problem — he heals his spiritual problem as well. A twofer, if you will. He forgives his sins, and cures his paralysis. Jesus’ concern is always for both our bodies and our souls. We pray for our daily bread, but we also pray for God to deliver us from evil.
When we pray for healing, do we pray for spiritual healing as well? The sacrament of the anointing of the sick gives us both–did you know that? I’ve received this sacrament many times in my life, and the sacrament’s prayers ask for physical healing — if that is the will of God — but also that the person’s sins be forgiven.
Before my lung transplant, I received this sacrament. My confession was also heard by the wonderful hospital chaplain, and I received a tiny sip of the Precious Blood before I was taken down to the pre-op area. No matter what happened to me on the operating table — if I lived or died — I had also been healed spiritually.
If there’s even been a year when we need physical and spiritual healing, it’s this year. During Advent, do your best to get to confession. I know that, depending on where you live, it might not be possible. But try to put as much effort into healing your soul this Advent as the paralytic’s friends sought to heal their friend’s body.
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