Monday, December 6, 2010

Luke 5:17-20: Faith for Others and Faith in Others

"One day as Jesus was teaching, 
Pharisees and teachers of the law, 
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, 
were sitting there, 
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. 
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; 
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. 
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
 they went up on the roof 
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles 
into the middle in front of Jesus. 
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:17-20).

In our (sadly) very polarized culture, there are two very loud opposite camps concerning how the "American Dream" should be strived for and realized. On the right you have those who wave the saber of "personal responsibility". On the left you have those who brandish the sword of "communal responsibility." In between are those who believe that realizing one's goals, hopes, or dreams in life is never purely either or but an admixture of both (with a lot of luck to boot!)

While many Gospel healing stories focus on personal encounters between Jesus and those whom he healed, the above Gospel passage from today's Mass is radically different and may offer some insight into the seeming dilemma between personal versus communal responsibility when it comes to living one's life as fruitfully, and even faithfully, as possible. In today's story, Jesus responds to the paralytics plight not by acknowledging the man's personal faith, but, rather, he recognizes the faith of those who lowered the man through the roof and heals as a result of their collective faith!

The Christian tradition has always had a very strong belief in the power of "intercessory" prayer and concern for others. What this implies is that healing, strength, and the bolstering of one's personal faith is always intimately and integrally linked to the faith of others who keep us in their thoughts, heart, and prayers. Our faith is not a "personal" possession but is meant to be a "faith for others and a faith in others." The men who went to such great lengths to carry their friend and lower him before Jesus must have had both faith in Jesus' healing power and faith in their friend's desire to be healed - otherwise, why risk life and limb? The road to a fruitful and faithful life, as this Gospel story indicates, is one that can only be negotiated by taking responsibility both for one's self and for others simultaneously. For the Christian disciple, it can never be one in isolation from the other. Pat, TOR