The healing of the paralytic presented to us early in Mark's gospel is a wonderful story to pray with in a form of prayer that St. Ignatius calls "Contemplation." It simply involves using our imagination to let the scene come alive with more depth and power so that the Word can speak to our hearts, with a grace our Lord wants to offer us. Ignatius recommends imagining all the details of the scene. Who is there, what they look like, especially their faces, and what people are saying. He suggests getting all our senses involved, so that smells and temperatures and textures are important, too. Finally, he suggests that we enter the scene, either as an additional character in the story or by becoming one of the characters in the story. The underlying belief is that we can "let go" of being slavish to the text and let the story "develop" in our imagination, because our Lord will speak to us there.
This story is particularly good for this exercise because there is so much movement and drama and personal interaction in the story. Jesus has been avoiding the crowds and returns home to simply being swamped by the people coming to him. We can imagine the little house he's staying in and how many people can fit in it and how many are listening through the door and windows. I'm picturing a small stone house with a thatched roof made of palm branches tied together. When some people carry the paralyzed man up to the house and see that there is no way to get the man to Jesus, except through the roof, we can imagine their persistence in pulling the thatch off of the roof and the man's fear as he just lays there on the mat. Of course, inside the house, Jesus is quite aware of the men removing part of the roof. Lowering the man down, right in front of Jesus is pretty dramatic. Now the really extraordinary part comes when Jesus is struck by the faith of these people and says "Child, your sins are forgiven." It is good to really imagine all the details of this part. Jesus' face, looking at the faithful friends (what a proud admiration must have filled his face), and then Jesus's face as he looks at the young man on the mat (how he must have looked and looked and saw into the soul of this man who could not move). And, of course, the young man's face (fear, embarrassment, wonder). We can take the exercise from there and continue to experience the power of Jesus' healing for this man and for us.
The first thing Jesus sees in us is that we need forgiveness. No matter whatever else we are struggling with or need healing from, the first thing Jesus offers us is his healing mercy. We cannot improve our other relationships or confront the issues we have to deal with without reconciliation with our Lord. That healing re-centers us, calms our fears, sooths our anger, and places our hearts in harmony with his. Jesus knows that it is here that we are often most paralyzed. We are stuck in our relationship with him. Everything we try doesn't seem to work until we are made right with him, through his merciful embrace.
Sometimes, for us to really encounter this healing forgiveness, we almost need some friends to carry us to Jesus. Perhaps it is an invitation we read here, or a word we hear from someone else's experience of mercy, or it might be just seeing in the parish bulletin when the Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered. I may need to talk through my examination of conscience with a spiritual director or a close friend. Whatever means gets us there, we can be assured the the opening to healing and the ability to walk freely again comes first with forgiveness and his peace.
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