Sunday of the Paralytic - May 3rd, 2015
By definition the word 'courage' is the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action. And the definition of fear is an unpleasant feeling of anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger. When you read the definitions of these words together we see that courage does not remove the anxiety or the presence or anticipation of danger, it is the ability to face it, to stand up to it, to be able to press forward and not be driven off course.
The anticipation of sickness and death is a great problem among the populous. Most of us just accept our fate and do not fight back with faith and trust. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they spend the rest of their days telling people they have cancer, or when you have a heart attack that you have heart problems or when they are paralyzed or that they are crippled they will never pick up anything or walk again. The acceptance of a condition has already put you into the mode of defeat. The words that come out of our mouth are powerful. Words can be used to heal or destroy.
When we watch the news we see negativity and hatred constantly, very rarely do we see good and pleasant stories to lift our souls. Have you ever thought about why? A study was done that said that most people who watch reality TV shows, watch those shows to see defeat and suffering, not to see the winner. We have accepted out society and all its ills. We have looked at our lives and have accepted the fact that we are poor, sick and in distress. We are our own worst enemies. We have given control of our lives to Satan and are comfortable in doing so because we have been doing it for so long we do not know what the difference is. The grain of a mustard seed is miniscule, but Jesus said if we but had faith that big we could move mountains.
This week we will discuss the paralytic in the Gospel of John. We read about a short conversation that Jesus has with the man about being healed. The man had been laying there for years. I would venture to guess that just as a prisoner gets accustomed to his circumstances; this man was accustomed to losing the race to get into the pool to be healed. He probably told himself, more than likely I will not be able to get into the pool in time, I never do, and finally the absence of courage kept him from pushing his way forward to come into the pool. Of course, everyone there desired the same result to be healed. Someone always found a way to get into the front of the line to find the results that they all so desperately hoped for. Because there was only one that could be healed in that season, he allowed his circumstances to dictate his healing.
When Jesus approached him, Jesus asked him a simple yes or no question: Do you want to be healed? The man’s fear shined through when he said: Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me. Is this the question that Jesus asked him? The man’s fear of not being healed for thirty years shined through, and the first thing that came out of his mouth was an excuse, not a yes or a no.
But Jesus in his extreme understanding did not reprimand this man, he looked at the man and said, take up your pallet and walk. Now the paralytic had two choices here, either remain in fear remembering thirty years of suffering, to be apprehensive and to remain transfixed on his condition or draw the much needed courage from Christ who stood before him and stand up and be healed. This act had many levels of courage, first of all from Christ, who did not doubt the power he had within himself, secondly his courage radiated and filled the paralytic and thirdly the disciples who watched on saw Christ’s lack of fear and carried that with them to be able to continue the task of saving the world and spreading the Good News.
This Gospel reading is coupled with the Epistle reading from Acts that describes Peter’s courage when he told the man with palsy to get up and when Peter told Tabitha to rise up from the dead. I can only imagine the first time Peter mustered up the courage to speak such powerful words. He had to remove the unpleasant feelings of anxiety and apprehension from first of all lack of faith and second of all the presence of danger. Every time he spoke the name of Jesus he was painting a target on his chest. Every time he did something miraculous he caused those who were jealous of Jesus to want to kill him.
I am sure that fear was constantly in his mind, but the courage he held close to his heart outweighed his own desire to run and hide, it outweighed the fear. He knew that death was always around the corner, and that with death would come his reward.
With death removed from the equation we can be courageous and steadfast in our resolve. The most frightening aspect of life is the anticipation of death. We have a few simple tasks to do in our lives. God does not ask us all to be martyrs or saints, even though we all have the potential to be. God does not ask us all to be hermits or monks, God only asks us to love him and to love our neighbor. Breaking down the two commandments one can clearly see how deep the words can be and can the meaning of each word in itself if powerful. As you read the commandment found in the Gospel of Mark, the definition of some of the key words is defined in parentheses. Jesus proclaims the words from the book of Deuteronomy with the statement, “Hear O Israel, the most important commandment is this, the Lord our God is the one and only God. [The First Commandment] Love (to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly) the Lord your (personally) God with all (the greatest possible degree) of your heart, (which is the basis of emotional life and is the source and center of emotional life, where the deepest and sincerest feelings are located and a person is most vulnerable to pain) with all your soul (The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being regarded as immortal or a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity and/or the emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance). and with all your mind (The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought) and with all your strength (The emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult and/or the influence or power possessed by a person.)
[The Second Commandment] Is equally (to the same extent or degree) important (of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being) to love (to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly) your neighbor (any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet) as yourself. No commandment is greater than these.”
I know that we have read the commandments many times, but each word has a meaning within itself that is powerful about what is being said. The statement that is made about the two commandments is to be taken literally with courage and no fear. Who is our neighbor to us? Who is God to us? We are called to love everyone, despite how they treat us. We are called to treat everyone like Christ would, but as everyone can attest, this is one of the most challenging things in the world. The goal of every Christian is to strive to not only emulate the saints, but to strive to be ultimately be like Christ, having the utmost courage and trust in God, and eliminating fear all together.