January 28, 2018
(2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12)
We’re moving too fast and making too much noise to perceive the gentle voice of God. With windows rolled up, stereos cranked and engines roaring, we have little chance of hearing anything ... but the sickening sound of a mortar-crusted missile.
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar S-Type Sedan. Who could blame him, with his Jag boasting a 4.2-liter, 8-cylinder, 400-horsepower engine? He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars, however, and slowed down when he thought he saw something.
As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and spun the Jag back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown.
He jumped out of the car, grabbed a kid with a buzz cut and wearing tattered cargo pants and pushed him up against a parked car, shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?”
Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?”
“Please - I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do,” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair, and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”
Deeply moved, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be okay. “Thank you,” the grateful child said to him.
The man then watched the little boy push his brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long walk back to his Jaguar ... a long, slow walk. He never did repair the side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.
God whispers in your soul and speaks to your heart. Sometimes when you don’t have time to listen, he has to throw a brick at you.
It’s your choice, each and every day: Listen to the whisper - or wait for the brick. The four friends in today’s gospel account heard the whisper, which is why they took the drastic action they did. They learned that a healer named Jesus was in the town of Capernaum, so they put a paralyzed friend on a mat and carried him to Jesus’ house. When they arrived, however, they found that the house was packed, and the crowd was spilling out into the street. There was simply no way that they could elbow their way inside, especially with the human load they were carrying. So they grabbed some bricks of their own to get the attention of the others. Climbing to the roof of the house, they punched a hole through the roof and lowered the paralyzed man down on his mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he proclaimed to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Then he said to the man, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, picked up his mat and walked out through the front door, amazing everyone in the house.
God whispered in the souls of those four friends and spoke to their hearts. He inspired them to seek out Jesus, using whatever means necessary, and to trust him to heal their paralyzed friend. When the foursome dug through the roof, Jesus looked up at their dusty faces and saw their faith shining through.
Would he see the same in us?
Tragically, most of us are moving too fast and making too much noise to hear the gentle voice of God. Our windows are rolled up, our heaters are blowing, our Sirius/XM or Pandora players are cranked, our 400-horsepower engines are roaring, and we have little chance of hearing the whisper; little time to even pray a Rosary.
We don’t pay attention until we get hit by a brick. And then - when we do try to get involved with others, it can still fall short because our connection with the needy and marginalized is tangible at best. We touch the lepers, warns Miriam Adeney, “at arm’s length, without ever leaving the security of our own turf. Loving our neighbors means something more. It means being vulnerable. It means entering into their pain. When God in Jesus came to live among us, He shared our troubles and felt our hurts. Do we feel the pain of those in other countries?”
We will hear the whisper only when we are willing to feel the pain of our global neighbors. When we become vulnerable enough to share their troubles and feel their hurts, and then take actions that show that we love our neighbors every bit as much as we love ourselves. When we slow down and listen we may learn of the shooting that happened at 3 am this morning in Pennsylvania, or the shooting in Kentucky this past week; or when we become aware that in the first 28 days of this year that we have already had 13 fatalities and 75 injuries due to just gun violence alone; or that we have had 112 terrorist attacks somewhere in the world in the same number of days! Have we slowed down to notice this at all?
Our love is not just a warm and wonderful feeling, but must be revealed in concrete actions if it is going to reflect our Christian faith. For if “a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,” observes the letter of James, “and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). Faith without works is dead, says James, and that’s why the foursome in Capernaum had to punch through the roof to get their paralyzed friend to the healer. The paralyzed man had been seeking help for what seemed forever, and finally four men listened. It was only when there was dust on their faces and dirt under their fingernails that Jesus looked up and saw their faith.
So what are you going to do to make your faith visible? The young executive in the Jag lifts the hurt boy back into his wheelchair, takes out his handkerchief and wipes the scrapes and cuts. That’s active faith. Another person spends a day each week reading and singing with patients on an Alzheimer’s unit. That’s visible faith. A family devotes a night on a regular basis to working at a local shelter for the homeless. That’s faith in action. An individual serves and acts as a caring presence in the life of someone who is feeling alienated from friends and from God. That’s faith you can see. Still another person meets fellow believers on international mission trips and works on issues of social justice. A priest dies saving some children from being killed in 1994 in Rwanda and the massacres there. That’s faith combined with works, in a vital and world-changing way.
The key is to listen for the whisper, and then act. To get up, get moving, get lifting, get carrying, get climbing and get digging ... whenever you hear the gentle voice of God calling you to do some work on behalf of others. Sure, there may be some barriers that separate you from Jesus, and from people around you. But like the fearless foursome of Capernaum, you can break through them.
We need to somehow instill in our generation and those to come, the message of Christ and that violence is not an end to a means – it is an end period. Our high tech world has left many of us insulated and indifferent to God and the message of love. We need to get people back in the pews and find ways of engaging the world without bombs and guns. Leaving the church or staying out of it is not working; if anything, it is making us insensitive to the world around us, much less what happens to us when are time to leave this earth arrives.
When you place the needs of the world in front of Jesus, amazing things can happen. The paralyzed can be healed. The hungry can be fed. The oppressed can be freed. The poor can be helped. Peace can break out, justice can be done, and hope can replace even the most desolate forms of despair.
It all starts with hearing the voice of God, and taking action. And, we need to be quick; before the next brick hits.
Let us pray.
That our society will be reenergized to seek Christ, love and peace in a world in such desolation of violence. That all people will seek healing from all hatred, division and intolerance throughout the world. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
For the families who lost loved ones in the shootings in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, that they be comforted in this horrible time; and the families of those who were injured in the same; that they will be motivated to help our young to be less exposed and influenced by the ever increasing violence in our nation. We pray to the Lord.
That the Church will stand before the world without stain or blemish, holy and obedient to God’s Word. We pray to the Lord.
That our parish family will grow in faith, hope and love. We pray to the Lord.
That all Christians will turn down their distractions and allow themselves to listen for God to speak to their souls and hearts. We pray to the Lord.
For the poor, the sick, the homeless, and those who are hungry, or lonely, or unemployed; that the mercy of God will raise them up and answer their needs tangibly. We pray to the Lord.
That our legislators will take a compassionate stand for the refugees and the undocumented children who have come to our country seeking help. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to be free of anxiety and full of trust in the Lord. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, in You we take Refuge. In You we seek to learn to slow down and love our fellow humans. So many have left Your Church due to injustice, lack of compassion and unwillingness to understand and adapt to the new needs of the world 2,000 years removed from our Lord Christ; help them to know that they do need You and there are churches that still teach, love and live in the example of Your Son. Incline Your ear to us and save us from our own destructive actions. Be our fortress, our stronghold, our rock or refuge. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA