Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 19 (Isaiah 43:18-19, 20-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12)

We need to re-sensitize ourselves to God’s compassion and mercy

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  • February 7, 2012

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 19 (Isaiah 43:18-19, 20-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12)

Humanity has a huge memory problem. On the one hand, we are far too quick to forget things that should be the source of wisdom. It is very easy to sweep unpleasant or painful actions and events under the mental carpet and refuse to learn from our mistakes. On the other hand, often the problem is just the opposite: an overactive memory and a refusal to let go of the past. People (or groups) can cling to traumas and injustices and continually relive them. They can engage in a lot of inner self-flagellation and self-hatred.

In this passage from Isaiah God’s approach is different. The people of Israel were in exile, still reeling from the shock of the destruction of their homeland and temple. Added to that is the helplessness and shame of being virtual prisoners in a strange land and culture. God insisted that they let go of “former things” — their spiritual and emotional baggage. God was weary of Israel’s sins and dismayed that they were not really calling upon Him. It seemed that they were mired in negativity and perhaps self-pity.

But no matter — God was at work preparing something so completely new that it could only be compared to making rivers in the desert. God was giving them a fresh start by blotting out their sins and leading them back to their homeland. Rather than living in the past, they had to be willing to step out boldly into the future with a new commitment and sense of purpose.

This is good advice for our own time — we spend far too much time in self-recrimination or hunting for scapegoats. Wallowing in the negative or nursing grudges and resentments captures too much of our time, energy and resources. It would be far more productive to remember our mistakes only as much as necessary to avoid committing them again. This should be followed by a recommitment and refocus on our ideals, principles and faith. The past is past but the future is still open to the decisions we make today.

In order to do that, it is helpful to remember something very important — something Paul was at pains to remind his community. God does not play games with us. God is never “yes” and “no” but always “yes.” God keeps God’s promises and is always faithful and constant. God is never the problem, we are. And if we have truly accepted Jesus into our life, it will be clear to us that God is reliable for Jesus Himself is the supreme fulfilment of God’s promises. The spirit that we have received is just a sign or preview of even more wonderful things to come.

People in the Gospel story sensed that God was present in Jesus in a very unique and powerful way. They crowded around the house where He was speaking and filled it to capacity, so much so that some very desperate people were unable to reach Him.

Both faith and desperation drove them to literally tear off the roof and lower their paralysed friend down on a stretcher in front of Jesus. Moved by their faith and perhaps by the loving care they provided for their friend Jesus forgave the man’s sins — we have no idea what they were — and ordered him to stand up and walk. He released him from whatever prison he had constructed for himself by bad choices. This is where the controversy began, for forgiving sins is God’s prerogative. Some people were deeply offended by what they saw was a blasphemous sort of presumption. But Jesus insisted that there was no difference in forgiving this man’s sins and healing him — both were expressions of God’s compassionate mercy.

No one would have objected to a “mere” healing — and they should not be offended at an act of divine forgiveness — even on the Sabbath. And Jesus insisted that He had the authority to do both, which was evident in the man’s healing from his affliction. Just as in Isaiah, God was giving this man a second chance and a fresh start. The stunned crowd had never seen anything like it — or had they?

Miracles take place all around us but often our minds and hearts are dull and unaware. Perhaps we need to re-sensitize ourselves to the presence of God’s compassion and mercy.

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