Friday, January 14, 2011

Love's creativity and the divine presence (Reflections on the healing of a paralytic, Mark 2:1-12)

There are really two miracles that take place in today’s gospel reading. The first of course is Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man. But there’s a second 'miracle'—far less noteworthy and far more ordinary and natural perhaps, but just as important. In fact without it, the more divine, extraordinary, and supernatural miracle would probably not have taken place.

What is this second 'miracle'? It’s the miracle that can be summed up in the phrase: “the creativity of love”. It’s the miracle embodied in the love of a group of friends for a brother who was ill, and which moved them to do everything in their power, including tearing open a roof, to make sure their friend would get Jesus’ attention despite the crowd.

The atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “He who has a ‘why’ can bear with almost any ‘how’.” For a Christian, of course, the ‘why’ that powers everything he does is none other than love itself. It is what enables him or her to go the distance in living Christ’s call to be his follower, no matter how challenging and even difficult the circumstances of such following might be.

This past Christmas, I once again had the opportunity to spend a few hours with some very poor people, and the priests who tend to their needs, both spiritual and material. As I sat there watching these guys interact with the people in the area, especially the children, I couldn’t help but marvel at the strength, not only of their faith, but of their commitment and dedication to these men, women, and children, most of whom had absolutely nothing to call their own, and very little to offer them in return.

It was just a fascinating sight to behold—and as I sat there wondering what made them stick to a ministry that very few—including myself—wanted to do full-time, it dawned on me, these priests love these people; that’s just it. They really do love them. And it is that love that has allowed them to defy the difficulties and frustrations of their work, and creatively find ways not only to aid these folks, but to keep themselves happy and fulfilled as well.

It is fascinating to think that the extraordinary event—the miracle of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in today’s gospel—was in fact facilitated by something far more ordinary, and yet no less supernatural: the love of four men for a sick friend.

Often, when we think of the miraculous, we think in terms of what is unusual, extraordinary, even supernatural, when the truth of the matter is, the miraculous is often right there in our midst, in the ordinary, the plain, the common, the simple, and the seemingly-insignificant.

Do we wish to truly find God in our lives today as seminarians, and later on as priests? Do we wish to always find joy, fulfillment, and contentment in everything we do, from the most important to the most mundane? Today’s gospel story offers us an important key. When there is genuine love for what we do, we unleash a creative power that transforms what is as simple and ordinary as the opening of a roof, into the very instrument by which Christ performs great wonders.

When we put love into our communion with one another, in the friendships that we form, in the work or ministry that we do, in the duties and responsibilities we are given, the ordinary ceases to be ordinary, and becomes instead, a revelation of the extraordinary workings of God’s grace.

Never underestimate the creative power of love. It doesn’t only open roofs, it leads to great miracles as well.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)