Monday, December 5, 2011

Encountering God

Today's Gospel (Luke 5:17-26) contains the beautiful story of some friends of a paralyzed man who lower him down from the roof in order to allow him to be in the presence of Jesus. Because of such faith, Jesus forgives his sins. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law accuse Him of blaspheming (since "God alone can forgive sins"), He grants a physical healing to the man, who picks up his mat and goes home. Sounds fairly straightforward, but there is a lot that bears reflection.
First of all, the length to which the friends go is amazing. They do whatever is necessary to remove an obstacle from the encounter, in this case, the crowd. Rather than giving up, they devise an ingenious plan to carry their friend up on the roof and lower him down so that he can see Jesus. This is really a way of "preparing the way of the Lord" and "making straight His path". Jesus then performs the wonderful miracle - He forgives the man's sins. Now, even the Pharisees and teachers acknowledge the immensity of this miracle, declaring "Who but God alone can forgive sins?" In order to help them realize that this was the reality, Jesus performs the secondary miracle of physical healing. Because this is visible, we then have a truly amazing thing happen. Luke tells us that they all glorified God! This is probably one of the few times that the Pharisees and teachers get it right. And they come off very well indeed, recognizing that they are in the presence of God. Unfortunately, they must have had short memories, because by the time Jesus is hauled before the Chief Priests and Sanhedrin, none of them come forward to give testimony.
Several lessons are given here for us. First, the necessity of others in our search for an encounter with God. Without the man's friends, he would not have been able to have this meeting with Jesus. And without his faith, he would not have been forgiven and then healed. And without witnessing these miracles, the others would not have realized that God was present. We, too, need others to help us realize that God is present. And others need us for the same reason. Ours in not a solitary religion, but rather a community of believers. Anyone who thinks they can connect with God all by themselves is ignoring what Jesus said (Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst).
Another lesson is the importance of the unseen. We sometimes rely too heavily on the things we can see, feel, hear. But often the things that have the most impact are hidden. Take, for example, a place where miracles routinely take place - a hospital. Now we can easily see the physical miracles taking place through the use of gifts that have been given to doctors and other medical personnel. but what about the unseen miracles that take place all the time in hospitals? I am speaking about the healing of relationships that come about when people realize that life is too short to hold grudges. Consider how many times in a hospital people finally appreciate what another has done for them. Consider the many who discover that, in their hour of greatest need, the only one they can turn to is God. How often do we think about these hidden miracles.
We are given an opportunity today to change direction - to take a new look at life around us. Even the Pharisees and teachers of the law had a change of heart, once they realized that God was present. My friends, God is present to us each and every day, but we often do not realize it. Look for the hidden miracles happening to the people that surround us, and find in them a reminder that God is with you. And try to help someone else, by removing obstacles to their encounter with Christ. Don't just pray "Come, Lord Jesus", but expect Him to do just that - today!

No comments: