Rise, pick up your mat and walk!

Healing of the Paralytic by John Armstrong
Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Readings for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

I’d like to know the story behind the story in this gospel.

I’d like to know the name of the paralyzed man
and the names of his four friends.

I’d like to know how old the man was
and for how long he’d been paralyzed.

I’d like to know how long that straw mat had been his bed.

Perhaps it was a mat like this, though not nearly so neat or clean.

How long had that mat, stained by years of sweat, been his home?
For how long had that mat been his only real estate,
the footprint of his place in the world?

How long had he been imprisoned there:
the mat, a cell floor with no bars,
yet a cell which defined and confined his whole existence?

The gospel tells us that after Jesus forgave his sins and cured him,
the man “rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away…”

As spectacular as the Lord’s mercy here
is the man’s confident trust that Jesus meant what he said.

In how many ways do you and I spend our lives on our own mat?
That mat might be woven from my circumstances; my personal history;
my faults and sins; my hectic pace, my memories; my selfishness;
my relationships; my addictions; my fears;
my hurt and resentment.

Many might be the ways my days and nights are confined to the mat
I let define my place in the world:
a mat stained with the sweat of my life’s words and deeds:
some good and healthy, and others -- not so much.

My body’s limbs might be strong and agile
but if my life is circumscribed by my mat’s footprint,
a kind of paralysis can seize and freeze
my heart, my hopes; my desires and dreams; my spirit;
and my relationships: with others, with myself and with God.

Living on such a mat is hard enough -
but even more difficult can be my attachment to that mat.
When my mat becomes my home, the familiar, safe place;
when its confines become my protection;
and paralysis itself becomes my crutch:
it can be difficult, it can even seem impossible to imagine
life apart from my mat.

I might indeed hear Jesus’ voice telling me I’m forgiven
and inviting me to be free, to rise and to leave my mat behind
but something holds me back, holds me down,
and I begin to doubt
that Jesus is speaking to me, to my life, to my heart.

I believe we all know what Jesus offers us.

We see, don’t we, at least in our peripheral vision,
the freedom Jesus invites us to share?

Don’t we hear, even faintly, the voice of Christ calling us always
to do what is good, to love what is just,
to trust in his mercy, to let go our shame and our fear,
to rise, to pick up our mats and WALK!

We read this story just before Lent begins this week.
The timing couldn’t be better.

Lent is a time for us listen more carefully
for the Lord’s voice in our lives.

Lent’s a time for us to seek more earnestly,
to open ourselves more fully,
to the mercy, the healing, the freedom the Lord offers us.

Lent’s a time to survey our lives and to take some personal inventory.

Lent’s a time to take an honest look at the mats we live on,
the mats that confine us and define our lives,
the mats from which Jesus invites us to rise and walk.

And although all of that is work each of us needs to do,
with God’s help, for ourselves,
we don’t do that work alone or in isolation from one another.

In the gospel story, the paralyzed man depended on his four friends
to carry him to Jesus
and let him down into the house where Jesus was.

Who are the people in our lives who are helping us come to Christ?

Who are the people in our lives who need our help
to bring them closer to the Lord this Lent?

Pray that we understand Lent not as a burden but as a friend,
a friendly season designed to bring us closer to Jesus,
to open up whatever keeps us from him
and to let us down into his healing arms?

The house where Jesus was staying in Capernaum was so crowded
the people outside couldn’t get near him.

Here in this house of prayer, the same Jesus invites us in
and prepares this Table
that we might share in the Supper that is his life,
his Body and Blood given for us, that with him,
we might rise, pick up our mats and walk!


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1 comment:

  1. What an inspiring way to interpret this gospel! Thank you Father Austin...I will be thinking about how to pick up my mat this week!


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