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(Part 33)


December 7, 2009

In today’s gospel reading, we have an incident that caused onlookers to enter into their proper relationship with God, that of awe and wonderment. Jesus healed a paralytic. “Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, ‘We have seen incredible things today.’” (Lk 5:26).
It was quite a drama. There was a big crowd listening to Jesus teach.[1] The friends of the paralytic, unable to get through the crowd, opened up the roof and lowered him right in front of Jesus.[2] The Pharisees murmured against Jesus forgiving the man’s sins. Jesus dramatically challenges them to consider what is easier--to forgive or to heal. Jesus heals the paralytic, who dramatically stands up and picks up his mat.

What a commotion such events would have caused! Indeed they saw and witnessed incredible things that day! And this led them to look on Jesus with awe, and to give glory to God.

The paralytic had been afflicted and was suffering, with no hope in sight. But then he had an encounter with the living God, who overturns situations, and brings healing, restoration and redemption. His being afflicted was what led to his being healed.[3] The affliction was thus a prelude to proclaiming the glory of God. In turn, his miraculous healing touched the lives of the onlookers and brought them nearer to the right relationship with God.

Now this is what God does. He works miraculous deeds, which show His power and majesty and draw people to God. These miracles involve a radical overturning of what is not right to what is right and just. “The desert and the parched land .... will bloom.” (Is 35:1). Feeble hands and weak knees will be made strong and firm (Is 35:3). The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, and the dumb will sing (Is 35:5-6a). The desert will burst forth with streams and the burning sands will become pools (Is 35:6b-7a). When such things happen, will we not indeed be awed, and say we have seen incredible things?

How else can God show us that indeed He is different from just any other powerful figure? In a world where many deities and worldly powers compete for our attention and allegiance, how does God truly stand out? This happens through His miraculous deeds, where the impossible comes to pass.

When these happen, then “they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.” (Is 35:2c).

Further, we live in a world of affliction and suffering, but such is only a prelude to experiencing God working in power to overturn our lot. In a way, just like in the case of the paralytic, and just as in the case of Job, it is our very situation of affliction that will prepare us to experience the wonders of God. When we realize that, we will even be able to praise God for our affliction, because then we can experience His power to restore and redeem. When we realize that, then we will no longer be afraid, as we look forward to God’s salvation. “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” (Is 35:4).

And what is this experience of God’s salvation?

  • It will be peace. Peace is shalom. This is a situation of everyone living in right relationship with everyone else, including God. As God is our savior, we are confident that “surely the Lord will proclaim peace” (Ps 85:9b).
  • It will be abundance and prosperity. Jesus came to bring abundant life. The Father desires the best for His beloved children. As such we can be confident that “the Lord will surely grant abundance” (Ps 85:13a) and that “prosperity will fill our land” (Ps 85:10b).
  • It will be justice and righteousness. God is just and righteous, and He calls us to be just and righteous. As such we can be confident that “justice will look down from heaven.” (Ps 85:12b, NAB). Another translation, in effect showing the interchangeability of justice and righteousness, says that “righteousness will look down from heaven.” (Ps 85:11b, RSV).[4]
  • It will be love and truth. “Love and truth will meet” (Ps 85:11a).

Wow! These virtues are precisely what are missing in the world. There is strife and disunity, poverty, injustice, unrighteousness, hatred and lies. These are precisely what cause oppression, affliction and suffering. These cause people to despair and lose hope.

But we have a Savior. God has redeemed us out of His great love for us. We just need to respond to His love, to accept His salvation. Then we must be faithful in living according to His ways. Then we must continue to be in awe of Him. “Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” (Ps 85:9, RSV).

God is already who He is. If only we would become whom God wants us to become, then we will experience His salvation. Once we decide to live according to God’s ways, then the process of redemption has started. And once the process of salvation has started, we need never be afraid, as we can fully trust in the promises of God and the unfolding of His plan for our lives. “I will listen for the word of God; surely the Lord will proclaim peace to his people, to the faithful, to those who trust in him.” (Ps 85:9).

God has shown us the way. It is the way of holiness. “A highway will be there, called the holy way.” (Is 35:8a). It is the way God has destined us for. It is the way of salvation. “It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.” (Ps 35:9b).

We live in a world of tears and sorrow. But God has another plan for us, just as He had for the paralytic and for Job. God’s salvation has come. And in that we can only rejoice.

“Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.”
(Is 35:10)

Yes, there are still many incredible things that we will see.

* * *

[1] The room was very crowded. “Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door” (Mk 2:2).
[2] Imagine bits of straw and clay and other roofing materials raining down on Jesus and the crowd.
[3] In other words, if he was not afflicted, then there would have been no situation by which he would experience the mysterious and glorious gift of healing.
[4] The difference in verse number of the RSV from the NAB, being one verse behind in numbering, is due to the RSV not counting the superscription as a verse, which for the NAB is verse one.

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