Don’t let anyone keep you from Christ

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7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Feb. 19, 2012
Isa 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; Ps 41; 1 Cor 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12

This is one of the vivid stories in the Gospels. Jesus is at home, surrounded by a crowd; the roof opens up; a paralyzed man is lowered down on a mat; Jesus forgives his sins; he has a moment of dispute with the scribes present; and then he heals the man’s paralysis, and he gets up and walks away. Amazing!

But what catches my attention is right as the story is opening. “Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door.” It’s sort of like one of those sayings attributed to Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” And so the four men were unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd.

Think about it. The people who were seeking Jesus, who were clustered around him, were preventing others from getting near him. How often has that happened? And I don’t mean by physically blocking the way, as in this case—but in other ways. How often do people associated with the Church, with belief, with coming to Mass, with parish activities, with public witness, with morality—the people clustered around Jesus—how often do these people prevent others from getting near him?

How could that be? How could such people—perhaps we ourselves—do this? By being closely associated with Jesus and yet not like him:

  • Not loving, but instead harsh or condemning.
  • Not holy, but persisting in sin.
  • Not joyful, but sour-faced or angry.
  • Not authentic, but hypocritical.
  • Not humble, but full of pride.
  • Not giving, but selfish.
  • Not receptive to the Father’s will, but resistant and rejecting.

How easily anyone might be discouraged by seeing these things. For don’t we expect those who cluster most tightly around Jesus to be like him? And yet, it is the sick who need a physician: we are all sinners who seek him out, and we seek him out imperfectly.

Brothers and sisters, please don’t let anyone keep you from reaching Christ. Whoever it is that might do so through their own bad example—even if it’s your parents, your friends, a priest (including me), or a bishop—anyone!—don’t let them keep you from him. Run to him in prayer; listen to his word and obey it; seek out his healing and forgiveness.

Secondly, take care that you are not preventing others from reaching Christ. Open your heart to true conversion, so that your life may show the light of Christ, rather than blocking it.

Look for ways to be like the four friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus. Be open about your love for Christ and your faith in him; and be ready to speak about your own struggles in turning away from sin and growing in his love. For then these struggles can be changed—from blocking the door, to opening the roof and making a way to him.

This Wednesday we begin once again the great season of Lent. As we enter into these 40 days, identifying with Christ’s own 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert, may we lay aside those things that entangle us and join with him in acts of love and times of prayer. Let us bring our sins to the sacrament of confession, especially those that paralyze us, so that he can forgive us and set us free. Let us draw closer to him than ever before.

In the words of the first reading: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

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