The ARM of St. Michael
The healing of the paralytic is an invitation for those in support group fellowship.
1 And when he returned to Caper'na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at
home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for
them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they
came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could
not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when
they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic
lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins
are forgiven." 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning
in their hearts, 7 "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who
can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his
spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why
do you question thus in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the
paralytic,'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and
walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to
forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- 11 "I say to you, rise, take up
your pallet and go home." 12 And he rose, and immediately took up the
pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and
glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
- Mark 2:1-12
The addiction of lust is a mortal affliction, as difficult to overcome as any disease. The man receiving the miracle had been paralyzed, and perhaps spent a lot of money, without cure. The lust addict has been a paralytic of sorts and has often "spent an untold fortune" as well. Unable to control his members or to find peace, an addict seems to grope futilely beyond repeating cycles of obsession and compulsion. Subsisting in the fetters of habitual error or so long, the lust addict suffers to the point of structural deformity of his physical being.
Christ, it is told, is "at home" when the paralytic is brought to him. Jesus is found where the word is preached, in his Church. The lust addict, in his pain and bewilderment, may at first be incapable of getting near the Savior. But others who know him may possess the faith to come to the Lord, in ways that the addict may not being capable of considering, in his state.
Crowds should not preclude the paralyzed from drawing close to the Savior. A large, already gathered flock might impose the feeling that the sick do not belong among the "healthy". Do we think that Christ is somehow only for the holy and pure? Did he not say that he came for the sick? Apparent non-access could be the deadly choice that Christ cannot help us, or would not help us because we are too filthy, too wounded, too far-gone. "No access to Jesus" is a conclusion that exposes weak faith. We must have faith! God waits in absolute readiness for every "paralytic", always.
Still, the "paralytic" may often simply not yet know what is possible with God. His faith may be so frail, in a variety of ways, as to be literally crippling. Hopelessness and false thoughts of perceived ineligibility for God's mercy, or "the insufficiency" of God's power, can be part of an addict's "paralysis".
Thus four men bring the helpless one to Christ, with the strength of their faith. In support group work, many listen to the one and take into their hearts his afflictions and then believing with faith personally, ask for his brother's help and transformation, for his faith to be increased or his prayer perfected. We bring the other to the Lord, who may not be able to believe or bring himself in authentic faith. God always hears the third-party prayer for the other, of the one asking in faith who expects no personal gain for being the asker.
Today, Holy Church is the infirmary to which we bring the wounded, possessed, and disordered. The Church holds out many forms of the One remedy; the sacraments of confession and communion; Eucharistic adoration; prayer groups, rosaries, novenas; the blessing of the addicted, anointing of the sick; healing Masses and retreats; ministries of deliverance; prayer confraternities; sacred reading, Bible study, parish volunteer opportunities for works of mercy and charity, and in prayers - in thousands of forms, including those for protection, renunciation and exorcism. The Church has a symphony of things to help sinners become free, which all flow directly from the interceding power of the blood of Christ.
The team thus resorts to a high-level approach, appealing to the strongest measures. They go beyond the many crowded at the door, beyond the Sunday Mass-goer. The daily Mass waits for those especially with the most leprous soul wounds; powerful, constant medicine. Praying a Mass can be offered in sacrifice for the healing of others. Frequent confession is strong medicine, for the grace needed to lift one out of the automatic reflex of sick habit. Continuous prayer is strong medicine, such as a rosary, or divine mercy chaplet, offered every day.
How did the four men know to climb up and open the roof, with their comrade in tow? As a support group team we lift each brother up in prayer and thereby "bring him" to the servants of the Church, to clergy, to those who are Christ's anointed distributors of sacramental grace and help. Clergy assist the team to "carefully lower" their friend before the Lord, Who is always ready to heal the very sickest first. The Gospel Church here is the image of tenderest care.
It may seem strenuous to do all this, it may seem like our own problems and needs demand priority. As we make the labor of prayer in faith for the other, we receive the surprise of our life: our own healing also proceeds,and even accelerates! "Love covers a multitude of sins". To pray for another person is holy, selfless, and therefore itself, redemptive. Seeing their combined efforts, Christ will heal the fifth because of the faith of the four! The deliverance of one can be effected on the faith of others! "When Jesus saw their faith..."
Jesus forgives the paralytic his sins first. The paralytic is physically debilitated. Physical comfort and happy unawareness of inner sickness are today frequently preferred to all other modes of coping. Was the paralytic disappointed that he we was brought all this way and "only" received, at first, the forgiveness of all his sins? Physical affliction and pain can obscure the more mysterious hidden ulcer, the invisible, often unchosen, wound within, root of the soul's disease, somewhere 'back there' in the repressed, avoided past.
Our battle is principally with the forces of sin which have ensnared us in a deep chronic pattern of weak choice. So the flesh, distorted by well-worn sinful habit, is only a secondary risk factor for addiction. Christ shows the order of creation: the spiritual informs, overrides and rules the material. Thinking as humans will do, we err imagining the reverse. This brings a radical sense of hope in a world today gone utterly rational, mechanistic and unaccepting.
If Christ places the seed of virtue within us - through the sacraments - we can expect a resetting of our very foundation, which then begins to prevent physical disorder expressing itself outwardly anymore through the error of sinful behavior. This inner healing, the health of the soul, is the truer, firmer basis for health in body.
Jesus instructs the forgiven to rise, pick up his pallet and go home. A pallet is "a small inferior bed or mattress filled with straw and used directly on the floor". What could be a more illustrative metaphor for the unfreedom of sin - especially lust! - thing of such insubstantial basis. Those receiving the miracle of Christ's healing come to see that the pallet is only the part of our life story which formerly debilitated. Through salvation, we no longer rest on this inferior bed as if it were the only foundation there could be. Our addiction no longer "has us" or defines us. The pallet is thus too transformed, it becomes the revealed understanding of who we used to be, how our wounds - chosen and unchosen - have contributed to the utterly unique creature that life has made us, and further, leads us to the light of who we truly are and will be. "Going Home" is facing a sinful past so that it no longer blindly cripples us. We carry now our story, our witness of the saving power of Christ, "going out before others", to those we may be called to help, to engender hope, to help another recover.
We do not abandon the pallet, our sorrowful past altogether, with shunning or repugnance or shame. But unafraid, we pick it up and carry it. It is not always easy; it is a cross. We may not want to tell that story any more, we would rather forget it entirely most of the time. Grace again appears, to help us retell the story of our recovery without stirring up distress, helping us to relate to our past safely, so that others will connect the dots in their scattered life fragments. We who once-upon-a-time lay just as stricken may soon become the blessed who will bear the pallet of the fallen one we find along the way who cries out supine for remedy. We know the illness and we know the cure: Jesus is salvation.
This is the essence of the twelfth step in anonymous recovery programs: helping others to recover. As we help others, at this stage, the once impossible attainment of self-mastery, starts to come into view.
Thank you Lord Jesus.