Homily for 22 February 2009 - Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B

Isaiah: 43: 18-19,21-22,24-25; II Corinthians 1: 18-22; Psalm 41; Mark 2:1-12

A long time ago, not in a galaxy far, far away, it just seems like it, when I was a teenager, there was a comic strip called “Od’s Bodkins”, it may still be around, I don’t know. One particular strip has always stuck with me. This little guy is walking along and all of a sudden God speaks to him from out of the blue saying, “THE WORD IS YES!” The little guy is so overjoyed that he runs around telling everyone he sees, “The word is Yes, the word is Yes!” Someone, not hearing clearly, asks, “What did he say?” “I don’t know,” is the answer. “No? No! THE WORD IS NO!”

Human beings, from Adam and Eve up to today, have managed to take the eternal, infinite, perfect, loving, healing, merciful, transforming “YES” of God and make it seem to be a cold, legalistic, harsh, punitive, tyrannical “NO”. That is what St. Paul was talking about in his letter to the Church at Corinth, “As God keeps his word, I declare that my word to you is not ‘yes’ one minute and ‘no’ the next. Jesus Christ, whom…I preached to you as Son of God, was not alternately ‘yes’ and ‘no’; he was never anything but ‘yes’.” Jesus Christ is God’s eternal “Yes” to us. As St. Paul says, all the promises of God are fulfilled in him. He is God’s Word and the Word is “Yes”.

But we are not always comfortable with “yes” – it’s too big, too wide open. We try to narrow it to “Yes – but” “Yes – if” “Yes – when”. Narrow it to fit our ideas of justice, righteousness, mercy and love. Narrow it until it is not a “yes” at all, but at best a “maybe, perhaps, possibly” or even a “No – not you, not now, not for sure.” God’s “Yes” to us in Christ Jesus is wholehearted and unconditional, our answering “yes” to God must be the same. We cannot allow our fear to dim that light, to restrict its outpouring into the world. In our lesson from the Prophet Isaiah we heard a proclamation of this outpouring, this “Yes”, “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.”

We, the Church, are the People formed for God to announce his praise; we, as the Body of Christ, are God’s continuous “Yes” in and to the world. Yes, to love, peace and joy. Yes, to forgiveness, mercy and healing. Yes, to worship, prayer and thanksgiving. Yes to fellowship, community and caring.

Our Gospel lesson from St. Mark could stand as an icon of the Church. The faithful bringing the suffering to Christ for healing and forgiveness, however difficult the journey. In our Christian life sometimes we are helping to carry the mat, and sometimes we are on it. In the Church we care for one another, sometimes we are giving, sometimes receiving, at all times blessed and blessing. This has been a hard winter for all of us here at St. Brendan’s. We have all suffered – physically, emotionally, financially. And we have all reached out to one another, supported one another through prayer and concrete, practical help. We have demonstrated our love and oneness in an effective and personal way. We have lived out God’s “Yes”, we have been God’s “Yes” to one another.

St. Mark writes, “When Jesus saw their (meaning the four friends) faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’” While the faith of the community cannot replace our personal faith, it can seed, nourish, bolster, encourage, challenge and protect it. If the paralyzed man had not been willing and open to receive what Jesus offered it would have been ineffective, but it was his friends that got him there.

Jesus first offered the man forgiveness of his sins, demonstrating not only that he is God, which angered the scribes, but that this was more essential, more needful, than healing his body. Any physician and time can heal a broken leg, only God can heal a broken heart. Only God can offer the healing of our souls, the pain of whose brokenness far surpasses any physical malady.

God’s “Yes” to us in Christ, in the Church, in one another, in our own hearts, heals our brokenness and our mission to one another and to the world is to never let the “Yes” be said by any to be “NO”.

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