7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
19 February 2012

Today’s liturgical readings remind me of the popular saying, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” The Lord, through Isaiah, declares something so heartwarming, so encouraging … something we all need so much in these times … a pat on the back, a gentle push from behind, a loving nudge from above … “In the desert, I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers!”

God be praised! For this is something I, and I dare say, all of you, very sorely need now. At a time when one typhoon after another, one earthquake after another, and trials upon trials mar and tar the social fabric of our lives everywhere, we are all sorely tried … we are tested in every way.

I will be the first to confess … I am!

There was a time in my younger life when things seemed simpler, life less complicated, and the future appeared rosier. But as I get older, I realize that things also get more difficult … The air is more tainted, the water more impure, and most situations surrounding our lives more embroiled in all types of confusion … moral, political, or otherwise.

I write even as I watch portions of the raging impeachment case going on in my country, with sadness, utter frustration, disappointment, and even, at times, anger, peppered once in a blue moon with laughter. But beyond the shallow and fleeting feelings associated with the current “telenovela” going on for the whole world to see, I confess that I get despondent over a slew of bigger issues … climate change, for one … the cycle of violence and looming persecution against Christians, for another. But the list is growing longer, as far as I am concerned. The “contours of hopelessness” that Robinson (2004) wrote about, “dotting the landscape of our lives,” make me cry out in pain, as does the psalmist: “Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.”

But my plaint already gives a clue to my existential pain. And it is simply this …  the root of all this pain is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but SIN.

Sin is ultimately behind all the malaise we are talking about, including the world’s tendency to prevaricate, to vacillate between truth and untruth, the uncanny capacity of us all to say “yes” while me mean “no” and say “no” when we mean “yes.” We are a sinful people, no more, no less. And we all are children of Adam, who denied responsibility but projected everything to the Eve, and Eve, who, herself, projected responsibility on the serpent.

I am sad … sad and sorry at what is going on everywhere … the abuse of power of those in authority … the arrogance of those who wield positions of authority in and out of government … the graft and corruption that people in high (and low!) places do with impunity.

But today’s good news leads me to be more sorry than sad. For the sorry state that we all find ourselves in, according to Scripture, really all boils down to, and is reducible to, sin … one’s own, and the sin we all take part in, by commission or omission, directly or indirectly, personal or social, for “all have fallen short of the glory of God!”

Because of sin, we live in a desert place. Because of sin, all we see is wastelands. Because of sin, we vacillate from “yes” to “no” and vice versa. Because of sin, we are not faithful … not to God, not to others, not to ourselves!

Today, in the midst of so much uncertainty and sadness, I praise God for the timely reminder that comes to us by way of the same readings. There is hope. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel of disappointment. There is a little opening that allows entry from the high ceiling of our frustrations.

The Gospel clinches it for us. If there is anyone who should be discouraged, it should have been the paralytic and those who cared for him. He was helpless to start with. But that helplessness bloomed into full blown hopelessness when they saw the house chock-full of people who all were probably equally helpless, equally needy of the Lord’s mercy and healing ministry.

But at this point, I will not repeat what I said at the start of this reflection, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” No… that is not good news, but a mere statement of human self-reliance. The Good News I am referring to, and holding onto for dear life is what Isaiah established first hand: “God will make a way!”

I say more … He tells us to open more than just the roof. He tells us to open the way to hope, forgetfulness, and to write off past records of our disappointments. He tells me, personally, today, to not allow myself to be imprisoned by past hurts, bygone events, and former frustrations and disappointments. “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not.”

But there is more … The Lord opens more than just the roof! The Lord opens the floodgates of hope from above, but He does so through the human efforts of those who brought the paralytic to him. He did not discount human effort. He allowed them to use their God-given strengths and capacities. He cured the paralytic. But He did so, only once his handlers brought him right in front of the Lord.

But I am not done yet! Early on, I laid down the basis of our despondency. I said it all boils down to SIN.

And this is the ultimate good news that today’s readings tell us. The bottom line … the ultimate foundation, the real basis of our malaise is sinfulness in all guises and forms and manifestations.

The Lord is healer. In answer to our plaint, “Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you,” he takes the bull by the horns and, at the risk of resorting to mixed metaphors, he goes for jugular, sort of, and tells the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat and walk.”

God, thus, indeed, makes a way. But the more important question might simply be this … Are we following the way he shows for us to follow?