What Ties You Down To Your Mat?

Reflection during the reconciliation service for the UB Charis Retreat this weekend:

Sometimes our friends think more of us than we think of ourselves.

Don’t they?

Take the friends of the paralyzed man. By being friends with someone who couldn’t walk, they are actually making a huge theological statement.

For you see, at the time of Jesus, people who were paralyzed were thought to be sinners. And their disfunction was God’s response to their sin. God’s punishment for being an evil person.

We still think like this sometimes today, don’t we?

Take my friends John and Kelly. For 8 months Kelly carried their first child in her womb only for her heart to stop beating just a few weeks before her due date. She delivered a dead baby. The pain of childbirth followed by the pain of mourning. John came to me afterwards and said: “I only have one question for God. What did I ever do to anyone to deserve going through this kind of pain?”

God’s gonna get you. Don’t we all say that sometimes?

So when the friends of the paralyzed man bring him to Jesus the mere fact that they are friends with him says that they don’t look on him the same way that others do. He’s not some dastardly sinner that we should just leave to die because God is punishing him. No. This is our friend. We know he has some redeeming values. They believe in him so much that they hoist him up to the roof and punch a hole into it and lower him down to Jesus. Imagine what an effort that must have been to do. Certainly they wouldn’t just do that for anybody.

When Jesus sees their faith, he understands what they are trying to say. “Hey Jesus, surely, this man isn’t a victim of some kind of God-induced karma. He may be paralyzed, but God didn’t do that, right?

The first thing that Jesus does in fact is her tenderly tells him “Child, your sins are forgiven.” And THAT sets the scribes off!

“Who is this that he forgives sins? And of someone who is obviously a HUGE sinner.”

So imagine the shock when Jesus says to them in essence, “Not only has God already forgiven this man. He didn’t give him this paralysis either. Just watch. Rise, pick up your mat and go home.”

Sometimes aren’t we paralyzed by our own sins? Don’t we have things that tie us down to our mats? Don’t we think that God couldn’t possibly forgive us for all the things that we do that are sinful?

I know I sometimes really get down on myself sometimes. And that’s why we have the sacrament of reconciliation. We come before God as sinful and instead of smiting us, God tenderly says “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Confession celebrates God’s mercy. We need our Catholic community to remind us that God is just like the friends of the paralyzed man. God thinks more of us, than we do of ourselves. There is always room for our redemption.

And more importantly, God doesn’t hold grudges. God completely forgives us our sins and there is no trace of our sins. God lets go of all that keeps us mired in guilt and yet we sometimes hold onto that, don’t we? Sin continues to paralyze our thinking into believing that we aren’t altogether healed by God’s mercy.

Do you want to really understand how God forgives us? Well you all were given a piece of paper tonight. I’ve already written my own sins down on this paper–notice I used both sides. And when I touch this piece of paper to our Candle’s flame–the light that represents Christ’s presence to us.

That’s how God forgives us. There is nothing left of our sin. Believe it. You are completely forgiven. Let us celebrate God’s mercy tonight. Rise, pick up your mat and dance for joy.