Reverend Mr. Bob Dangel, our deacon, led our class on the New Testament at 6 P.M. on Wednesday September 28 at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. Among the topics discussed were the healing of the paralytic, catechesis of our young children, and the proper preparation before Mass.
In discussing the healing of the paralytic, we discussed the idea that the paralytic was the victim of child abuse. What paralyzed the child were a combination of fear and the lack of confidence coming from believing the abuser, that whatever the child does is somehow wrong. Jesus comes preaching confession, a turning of the mind toward God. Jesus also comes with a very Jewish understanding of the Jewish Creed, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Jesus’ Great Commandment, St. Mark 12:28-31. “Hear Israel/those who quarrel with God, God is Almighty, God is One. Love God with all of your hearts, (The word for “hearts” is plural, and the word for “your” is singular,) with all of your animate being, with all of your measure.
Jewish tradition gives two reasons for “hearts” being plural, and “your” being singular. They both apply in the healing of the paralytic. The first is that we both have two hearts. There is the heart/desire to do what is good/pleasing to God, and there is the desire to do what is rotten. We are to love God with both. The second is that “hearts” refers to “Israel,” the community, multiple hearts working together as one, E Pluribus Unum.
Jesus asks the Pharisees/the Separate Ones, “What is easier to say, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven,” or “Pick up your mat and go home.” If we look at both choices, they both have seven syllabi. Neither is easier to say. Both choices reflect an attitude toward leadership. As Deacon Bob correctly pointed out, the first choice imparts grace, gratitude, a releasing of all the guilt that came from believing he was always wrong. This grace propels the child onward and gives him the direction he needs to continue onward. He needs no more instruction of Jesus. Jesus needs to expend no more syllabi. The count ends at seven.
The second choice is, “Pick up your mat and go home.” The child is empowered to pick up his mat and go home, maybe. The child’s parents told him whatever he did was wrong. The child fears even in this simple task, his leaders will tell him he is doing even this wrong. Out of fear and insecurity, he may not even be able to do this. He will need to be coddled to do even this, with more syllabi expended. When he does get home, with no empowerment to act on his own, he will need more instruction, more syllabi. The count does not end at seven.
By asking, “Who is able to forgive sins,” implying there is sin; the Pharisees display an attitude showing participation in the abuse. The abuse continues; the symptoms remain. Jesus comes with a new attitude, and a new result. The grace Jesus gives empowers the child. The problem is that to act, the child must not only believe whatever he did wrong is forgiven, but that his effort, expanded in the past but failed, will be successful now. Jesus cannot cause the child to believe that. Only the community can.
Reverend Mr. Bob Dangel correctly pointed out that the story does not tell us whether the community helps the paralyzed child. The point given was, this is because we are that community. We answer that question, not with our words, but with our actions. Millions of people in our nation, thousands here in Reno Nevada are victims of abuse, from parents, and abusive management in our factories and other places of employment. We answer that question every time we act, or refuse to act to rectify abuse and bring the victim back into society. The passage begins, “Hear Israel.” Are we a community who acts, or are we communities like the Pharisees that continue to act on the blame?