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Seventh Sunday of the Year

Jesus Makes All the Difference

It is easy to picture the scene in today's gospel. In fact, it could be made into a film scene without difficulty. Suppose it was. And suppose that for some reason the sound track failed, and the audience was left just to watch what was going on.

Even without the sound, what was happening would make a lot of sense. Jesus is in a house, and a crowd gathers outside. As he talks about something or other, and the crowd listens, another group of people turns up. Among them is a paralytic man carried on a sort of stretcher by four of them.

Finding their way blocked, they scramble onto the roof with the man they are carrying and start to make an opening big enough to lower the paralytic down to where Jesus is. Jesus says something to the paralytic, this causes a stir among the scribes, and Jesus speaks to them.

Jesus then speaks again to the paralytic, who suddenly moves, arises, picks up the stretcher and walks out in front of everyone. There is general astonishment among the crowd, and people call out.

To watch a film of today's gospel, without the sound track, would bring out two points. The first is that the arrival of Jesus among us makes a difference.

Christians do not simply have a vision of how things might be, a hope that salvation may or may not happen. Our faith is not only an explanation of how things are, a set of profound insights, together with impressive teachings and quite a few convincing arguments. Jesus makes possible a new way of living.

This new way of living begins at baptism and shapes a lifetime's choices and actions. It goes so deep in us, that even death will not stop the transformation God gives us in Christ.

The sudden and unexpected movement of the paralysed man is the dramatic visibility of the difference Jesus Christ makes to our lives. It is healing and empowering, it is an act of love and it transfigures the disfigured. In the vigorous movement of the one who used to be paralysed, we see an image of what life without limitations will be like -- we glimpse the resurrected body.

Yet we need to hear the sound track to understand more of what is going on, to be let into the full story. The second point is that just as the words Jesus speaks are invisible yet real, so he relates to us in ways that go beyond the material to the dimension of the soul, to the spiritual.

We urgently need to be set free from the paralysis of sin, the incapacity to be fully who we are meant to be. The paralytic was not only physically helpless and diminished. The full flow of life in him was blocked in a more intangible way than the paralysis that stopped the free movement of his body.

If we hear the words of Jesus, if we hear the Word that is Jesus, we will begin fully to understand.

In today's gospel, we are first told that Jesus was preaching the word. As the gospel story unfolds, we are given two examples of how effective that word is. First Jesus speaks to the paralytic to tell him that his sins are forgiven -- and they are. Then Jesus speaks to him to free him from his paralysis -- and he is. God brings things about at every level of our existence, and always for the good.

The healing of the paralytic at every level of his being is a startling picture of what God's love in action looks like. But the narrator of this gospel, St Mark, also tells us something about our faith.

By himself, the paralytic cannot reach Christ. A group of people has to bring him along, literally carry him, and they have to persist and overcome difficulties to get to Christ. These people believe in Jesus, they care about the paralytic's needs, and their faith makes them carry someone else in its movement.

As we are told, Jesus turns to the paralytic carried by others on seeing their faith. Faith in God is neither idle nor selfish.

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