Friday, January 13, 2012
A Hole in the Church Roof
In the Gospel today, we heard the account of the four men who carried their neighbor to Jesus on a stretcher. He was paralyzed and could not get himself to where Jesus was. But, because of their intercession, that man encountered Christ and not only was freed from his paralysis, but also from his sins.
Those four men are a model for us Catholics. They did not allow the paralysis to keep that man from Christ. They identified the obstacle and then made it possible for him to go to Jesus. In every parish, there are persons who are not able to approach the sacraments or who are not able to approach Jesus. Some are hindered by physical limitations. They are in nursing homes or are home bound. Some are not able to approach the Sacraments because of their marital situation. Some are not able to approach Jesus because they are paralyzed by fear, by the memory of some grievous sin, by laziness, by anger, by stubbornness, by resentment, by pride, by addiction, by enslavement to the flesh, by procrastination, or by a thousand other afflictions.
Those who are ill and unable to come to Mass are provided a beautiful gift of being able to receive the Eucharist at home through the visits of priests, deacons, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. We recognize what hinders them and then we--like the four men in the Gospel--find a way to bring them to Jesus. It would perhaps be helpful for us to think about those who are paralyzed by other afflictions (like the ones mentioned above) as also being infirm. We can be tempted to grow angry with those who don't go to church. But, perhaps we should be more like the four men in the gospel who identify the affliction and then figure out how a way to help the afflicted.
It would have served no purpose if the four men in the gospel stood in front of the paralytic and cajoled him to get up and go to Jesus. He needed help. He needed friendship. Similarly, we need to make it as easy as possible for our brothers and sisters to get to Jesus. To be clear, this can never mean watering down the Gospel or calling good evil and evil good. When the paralytic did get to Jesus, he needed to have his sins forgiven. Jesus didn't say to him, "You are perfect just the way you are." Jesus had mercy on the man. Similarly, our goal is to get others to Christ so that they can receive his mercy. But, we ought to make getting them to Jesus as easy as possible.
In parishes, we ought to think about who isn't here and then ask ourselves how to make it easy for them to return. We have to be thoughtful and patient about it. If a person, for instance, is angry, then telling her that she is stupid is probably not going to help her get to Jesus. If a person is trapped in some sort of sinful sexual lifestyle, perhaps showing him true friendship will yield better results than drawing a line in the sand. Perhaps when he sees what true love is--when he is brought to Jesus--he will forgo his sinful ways. In fact, in all of these examples, what is most needed is the friendship of the Church.
In some way, all of us are on the stretcher and all of us are carrying the stretcher. All of us are hindered in some way or another from fully going to Christ. And, all of us as Catholics are called to help others to find their way to Christ and to receive his loving mercy.
I have eight buildings for which I am responsible. That's a lot of roof space! The very thought of the men in today's gospel cutting a hole in the roof makes me tremble. But, it's good to think about what I am willing to do and what I am willing to sacrifice to help others get to Christ. Are we ready to tear the roof off if necessary?