January 17, 2020
(St. Anthony, Abbot)
All the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.” 1_Sm_8:4-7,10-22a
They came bringing to him (Jesus) a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Mk_2:1-12
God’s second gift, or grace to us, after the gift of life, is our gift of free will or choice. Today we see three examples of the kinds of choices people can make.
The first choice was based purely on selfishness. The Israelites, who were already losing their faith in God, after all that God had done for them: freeing them from slavery in Egypt, feeding them in the desert, and saving them from predators, after ALL THAT, the Israelites had CHOSEN to step down from their position as the “specially chosen Children of God,” to be, instead, just like the foolish, godless heathen – from whom they were supposed to be escaping – wanting a king, and a hierarchy, and slaves. Slaves, whom Samuel warned them, would be they, themselves and their children.
Sometimes, our hearts can be so hardened against the Truth, that it can hit us on the side of the head and we still won’t understand.
The second choice was based on conditioning. The Scribes in Mark’s Gospel were responding to Jesus’ forgiving words exactly the way most lawyers would today. They knew the Jewish law inside and out. And IF the Law said – that “only God could forgive sins,” then anyone else who uttered those words of forgiveness, was making himself or herself equal to God, and according to their Law, that was blasphemy.
The Scribes choice was plain. Everything was either in obedience to the Law or NOT. And if it was not, then THEY believed that they were to act as God’s Judge and Jury and Persecutor; because THAT was the Letter of the Law and there was no room for human compassion. You see, those Scribes were “conditioned” to live and move and think only in the black and the white.
It’s a good reminder for us, beloved, to always keep a check on what’s conditioning us. What are we reading? What are we listening to and watching? Is it really the Truth, or is it biased by some one person’s, or some group’s, personal or political agenda? Does it lead us to more love and understanding, or to more judgment and hatred of others?
Jesus taught us that Love is always the very best of Choices. Which leads us directly to that third example of Choice in today’s Scriptures. You see, the paralytic didn’t really have any sins that needed forgiving. But the people of the day had this false perception that physical illness was directly caused by sin.
In reality, those who actually needed forgiveness in the story, were the four men who broke through somebody’s roof. But, you see, their motive, their whole purpose, their choice for performing that sin of destruction – of someone else’s property, was based purely on their Love for their brother, or father, or friend who was paralyzed.
They broke the least commandment in order to invoke a “Greater Good.” And Life and Love is always the Greater Good! And so, their Love – justified their creative bending of a conditioned rule. Their unselfish Choice was offering their lives for the sake of the “Other,” based on their Faith in Jesus.
God has graced us with the Gift of Choice and the Command of Love. And He’s asking us, today, “How are we making the best of both in our lives?”
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