Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sermon Notes: You Believe Crazier Things

Reflection for Communion Service 6:30 am
St. Vincent de Paul Parish
Friday January 17th
Memorial of St. Anthony Abbot

Miracles: If you have kept up with the readings for this week, or even simply listening today, you will notice that, going through the first chapters of Mark which encompasses the beginnings of Jesus’ public ministry after His baptism, there are lots of miracles. Jesus casts out demons (1:23-28); heals people of the fever and other ailments (1:30-34); cures a man of leprosy (1:40-45); and today the healing of the paralytic (2:1-12).

Playing the Skeptic: If we are honest with ourselves, when we hear all these miraculous events, we cannot help but be a little skeptical. “Did that really happen?” “Why doesn’t that happen now?” “There is probably a perfectly logical and scientific explanation for that. You know their science was bad.” Many in our secular society and in many Christian communities have encouraged us to raise these questions. There is a famous commentary on the bible, which gives such explanations for events like the calming of the sea, attributing the event to Jesus’ superior nautical skill rather than His Divine command of the sea; He just pulled the boat behind a mountain out of the wind.

You believe in crazier things: To this I would simply say that we believe in crazier things. We balk at hearing of these healings and cures, yet we receive the looks of bread and wine calling them the body and blood of Christ. We scoff at the casting out of demons, yet we rejoice seeing water give birth to a new child of God. We don’t trust that Jesus’ words could really affect such realities, yet we feel the weight of sin and guilt lifted from us by the words of absolution in the confessional.

The Gospel: Jesus plays with this dynamic in a real way in today’s Gospel. If you notice, Jesus did not heal the man first. No, He forgave the paralytic’s sins, having seen the faith of these men (2:5). The scribes scoff at this: “Blasphemer! Who can forgive sins if not only God Himself?” (2:7).  Jesus responds: “Is it easier to say: your sins are forgiven, or rise, take up your mat, and walk?” (2:9). The Scribes had the opposite problem we do. they believed easily in the earthly miracle, but not the heavenly reality. We confess our faith in the heavenly mystery, yet are reluctant to trust the earthly miracle. To this we must simply ask for a stronger faith in God, Lord of heaven and earth.  

Practically: This means a firm trust in both heavenly and earthly aspects of our faith. We do believe in such workings of grace as the sacraments but also miracles performed in the world. The resurrection of the dead, for example, but also more humble workings through you and I in our encounters with others throughout the day. 

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