Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We have never seen anything like this!

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

- Mark 2:1-12

My study bible says that this story is symbolic in three ways. Sin is a "paralysis of the soul." So we ask for healing in faith, we come to Christ and ask for healing of spiritual paralysis. We must let nothing deter us from coming to Christ for this healing. We must help each other to do so.

I must confess that I might not have thought of this story on these terms had I not read these helpful notes (coming from all who've thought and studied long before I have and with much more depth of understanding). But it is quite wonderful and insightful to understand what it is to be healed on these terms. I have never contemplated sin as "spiritual paralysis" but this makes a lot of sense to me.

If you think of sin as some behavior or way of thinking that we're stuck into, something that we need to take a new look at or to change about ourselves, it's a wonderful metaphor for change and transformation in spiritual practice - and especially as the fruit of prayer. I find that through this long process of a contemplative prayer practice, in which I have engaged for over thirty years, new things open up to me that I should change about myself that I never would have re-examined without my prayer life. When I come to Christ, or open the door to that kingdom in the message he's preaching, it's often that another unexpected door opens to me asking me in some way to re-examine a long-cherished belief, a "should" or a "must." Most often this is something I have always thought was a part of "good" behavior, so it comes as a surprise to me that I need to re-think it and perhaps give up this way of thinking.

If you think of this sort of long-cherished idea that needs discarding as "spiritual paralysis," then the growth in spirit, in transformation, metanoia (repentance) makes a lot of sense. We go to Christ for healing. Wherever we are stuck: we may have some stumbling block, we may have some long-held belief that is holding us back from understanding how to move forward, whatever it may be: we need Christ's healing input to change it. We don't have the perspective that Spirit does that can "point out" to us things we might need to change in order to make progress or go forward. The teacher is also the healer for a very important reason. We turn to Christ in prayer and worship for healing precisely because it's there we find the secrets to what ails us that we can't see about ourselves. At least, this has, indeed, been my experience.

The healing takes place in faith because to change takes great courage, and very often tremendous faith. To change our way of thinking or doing things, to be able even to think of ourselves in different ways than we did in the past, to change our own image of ourselves and how we interact in the world may just demand tremendous faith. It is not an easy task. Often it feels as if one is stepping off into space, on a dark mountain, stepping off a rock that leads where you don't know. And we don't know: what we need to do to heal often takes sight that we don't have, vision that we can't see. So, we go forward to healing in faith. This is a difficult process.

I like to watch a television program about healing from addiction, called "Intervention." The principles we examine in this reading are exemplified very well in the kind of courage and faith it takes to heal from an addiction. If you think about it, an addiction is very definitely a form of "spiritual paralysis." To be healed means to become unstuck from that place where we're unable to change. We need all the help we can get. To change involves great courage and being willing to look at things we might not be able to see about ourselves. When we come to Christ in faith, we're not asking for a simple physical healing, but one that takes hold of every part of us: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. This requires a teacher that can look more deeply into us than anyone else can, a healer who knows far more about us, and about where we need to go and how we need to heal than anyone else. And this is why we come to Christ, in faith. May you be blessed on your journey of healing with courage and faith, the strength to do whatever it takes to get to the healer, and the support you need to get there. I hope my blog is some sort of support for people who read it.

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