February 23, 2009
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 2: 1-12 “Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up
the roof above Him”
July 2008, World Youth Day, Sydney, a Filipino priest on his way home to his sponsor family had a casual conversation with an old Aussie lady standing on the train station. The priest felt something was wrong and politely asked, “Are you okay ma’am?” The lady said in surprise, “You know Father, for many years, I don’t go to the Church anymore. I committed a grave sin. I don’t know if God had forgiven me.” The woman continued, “But when you asked me if I am okay, it is as if God telling me I am forgiven. I guess it’s time to return to Him.” A simple question of concern brought back to God a long lost sinner.
Ten years ago, when I was in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, I witnessed how painful for somebody out there in the middle of nowhere to die of cancer. No medicines. No pain-killer. No extra-ordinary intervention from a hospital. No air-conditioned room. No nurses and doctors at his bedside. But he died in peace in the presence of his loving family. Presence matters.
We cannot deny that we are surrounded by people who need help. We do meet them everyday, sometimes we just don’t care. Yet if we have the “heart of God,” we cannot just ignore them and live in peace.
Our gospel today is a classic example of what “reaching out” means. Like leprosy, the Jews believed that paralysis was also caused by sin. Somehow, the four friends knew that only Jesus could heal their paralyzed friend. In Mark’s desire to highlight the extra-ordinary effort of the fantastic four, he gave details of the obstacles they would encounter in their “caring mission”: “Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door. (Mark 2:2) ” The situation was very frustrating. Everybody wanted a share of Jesus’ attention. It was four against hundreds. It was easier for the four to say, “Better luck next time, my friend” than to go through all those inconveniences of coming near to Jesus. But the physical obstacles did not discourage them from bringing their friend closer to Jesus. They were insulted and mocked when they tried bringing their friend through the door, but to no avail. And they received more curses and insults when they climbed the roof. More or less they have calculated the risk of doing something unthinkable (make a hole on the roof!) and they were willing to pay the price, the fury of the crowd. But their detestable action in the eyes of the crowd gained admiration in eyes of Jesus. Their determination, imagination and all out support to their friend compelled Jesus to heal their friend: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5). And the paralyzed man was healed.
It dawned on me that there are hundreds of “paralyzed people” in our society today. Some of them are just a “look” away from us. They have the desire to come to God but they do not know how. Some have heart paralysis – they do not know how to forgive. Some have hand paralysis – they don’t know how to share. Some have foot paralysis – they can’t move on. And some have eye paralysis – they see people as “things.” Let’s encourage them to exercise their hearts and move on.
When was the last time you invited a non-church goer to attend Mass? When was the last time you visited a long lost friend? Have you ever tried sending a note of thanks to your favourite retired grade school teacher? What about visiting our forgotten Lolos and Lolas in Talon-talon Home for the aged? When was the last time you watched a Tagalog movie with a friend who is an avid fan of Piolo Pascual or Ai Ai delas Alas? A surprise dinner for three - for you and your parents? A new shirt for the school janitor? The possibilities of doing something “life giving” for others are innumerable. Be creative. Be imaginative and we can make others happy. Let’s create a “hole” in their hearts with our unwavering support, unchanging love, and continuing invitation to move out from their miseries and woes. Let them feel that we are determined and serious in helping them.
I am eternally grateful to my friend Fr. Pat Falguera, SJ. I owe him my vocation to the Society of Jesus. When I was in UST and reviewing for my Civil Engineering Board Exam, I used to see him at the Main Library. He was very “makulit” (persistent) in inviting me to join the Jesuits, “O kailan ka papasok?” Because of his untiring invitation, I finally went to Ateneo de Manila and applied in the Society of Jesus. The rest is history
The gospel reminds us of our responsibility to reach out, care, and make a difference. Don’t give up. Transcend the obstacles. Think of the roof and make a hole. Think creatively how you can bring someone a little closer to God. We do not need magic and heroes to save the world. Be “makulit.” Wear that “never give-up” spirit and someday, you will achieve a breakthrough - a “hole” in their hearts.
When I was in New Bilibid Prison, the most intimate and soul-searching conversations I had with the prisoners happened in mundane moments, while we are playing chess, dama, and scrabbles. The best way to bring people closer to God is not through catechism, homilies and seminars, but in a “friendly walk” with them. A hardened heart and a paralyzed spirit cannot resist a “faith-full” friend.
Let me end my homily with words of wisdom from Leo Buscaglia:
“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honour. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.”
- Fr.Willy M. Samson,SJ
February 22, 2009