7 Ordinary B – February 19, 2012 – Making All Things New
Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22, 24b-25; Psalm 41:2-5,13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22 and Mark 2:1-12
There is a community near Toronto Canada where persons with a mental handicap and their assistants live together in the spirit of the beatitudes. It is one of the L’Arche communities that are now in 30 countries on 6 continents. Henri Nouwen, known for his teachings on spirituality and healing, lived in one of those places, the Daybreak Community, and … it change his life.
Nouwen learned that persons who are handicapped help us see our own disabilities, our imperfections. In one of his books called, Making All Things New, Nouwen reflects on Jesus as the model for finding ways to live anew in the spirit of God, in the midst of our handicaps and shortcomings.
In times of stress caused by any number of things, we often find an inner strength that can get us through almost any challenge. However, there are people among us that cannot do this alone; they have no means to help themselves. Someone has to assist them whether it is family, friends, government or religious institutions. Someone has to help these people like those who lowered the man who was a paralytic through the roof in today’s gospel story. He never would have gotten there without his friends.
Our Christian tradition, in part, believes that God is with us in all we do. We call that faith. In the first reading from Isaiah we heard about how God works. The Israelites were emerging from many years of captivity. They felt they were punished; that they were worth little. God said to them, “I am going to do something new for you.” I am going to pave a new road that will lead you to the land of endless possibilities, a land of sweet milk and honey. Further, God said to them, even though you wore me out with your unfaithfulness I am going to forget all of your past transgressions. What a merciful God.
We Christians believe, “making all things new” is something that Jesus did. Today’s passage attributed to Mark was written about 30-40 years after Jesus died. The story depicts the first of five controversies between Jesus and religious leaders that would eventually lead to his capital punishment. It is not an eye witness account but this passage does have a message for us.
That Jesus healed the man who was paralyzed is nothing new. That’s what Jesus did. It was his ministry. That he forgave the man all of his sins is what caused a stir. It was a blasphemous act! Illness was understood as punishment for sins and only God could forgive sins.  Jesus was making all things new. By his actions he showed that healing and forgiveness are part of the same experience.
Perhaps Jesus saw in the man who was a paralytic something of his own life, his suffering, his death. Still he was also convinced that life was not only about suffering and death. Similar to what God gave the Israelites in the desert, Jesus offered the man who was paralyzed and others a chance to rebound, to live anew. He presented a lifestyle that does not focus on luxuries, power and triumphalism but on healing; helping others to live peacefully in a just land.
So what are we making new? Are we as a church, a body of believers, drawing closer to the humble, healing power of Jesus? Are we a church that is becoming more introspective, exultant, incorrigible and imperialistic? Most likely we are both — full of conviction, pride and certainty at the same time we are imperfect, doubtful and vulnerable.
To live better lives, more honest lives, we seek the courage to name the disabilities, the roadblocks in our lives, and then to find ways to remove them or learn to live with them. How do we break through the roof tops, to bring promise to broken down people? How do we challenge assumptions of our civic and religious leaders? How do we confront ourselves?
Next week the season of Lent dawns upon us. It arouses a new enthusiasm for opening our windows to let in some fresh air. Soon a spirited spring will push aside the dreary days of winter. New life will sprout up from the frozen ground. What about you and me? Will this Lent be business as usual — giving something up, taking something on? Can it be a different season, one of quietude, contemplation and rejuvenation? Can this Lent be a time when you and I make all things new?
1 Attridge, H. (Ed.) The HarperCollins Study Bible (San Francisco: Harper) 1989, 1723,1727