As we begin our reflection for this 7th Sunday in ordinary time, it seems to me that a common theme could be observed all throughout the past Sundays in which we have reflected on the weekly Word that is celebrated in the liturgy. This theme we see once again in the Sunday readings. At the very heart of the preaching of Jesus was the coming of the kingdom of God. It was to be a kingdom unlike any other that the Jews, to whom his preaching was first directed, had ever known, but one that they have long been anticipating. It was to be a new era of peace, wherein everything that the people of Israel had lost would be restored, where all of the prophecies concerning the recovery of Israel’s former glory would be realized and even surpassed; it was one that would be accomplished by the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. The Jews were thinking that this restoration would come through external structures and through an epic revolution. This was one reason why they were greatly confused and scandalized when they understood that it was not to come from there. The basis of their hopes we could hear in the First Reading, where the Lord declares to Israel the renovation that he was to make of the present state of things: See, I am doing something new! In the desert I make a way; in the wasteland, rivers. This renewal is the sure step towards the salvation that God gives as a gift to man, for when before there had been a seemingly endless expanse of deserted land, now there is a way that limits it; where before everything was lifeless, now life is promised because of the waters that flow through it. It is important for one to be made new in order to share in this salvation promised by God.
This renewal, as people would learn, and as the Lord Jesus himself would announce in his preaching, was not to come from without: it was a renewal that would start from within, one that would only begin when the greatest obstacle to the coming of the kingdom has been removed, one that is none other than sin. From the onset, one realization that could be had from the Word of God today is that sin is a firm obstacle to this renewal. Basically, taking away this obstacle from our lives, in order to be renewed is nothing more than undergoing conversion. This is at the root of the Christian life. Conversion is nothing less than responding to this call of renewal that starts from within. It is taking heed to the imperative call that tells us to change the direction which until now we had been taking: before, we had been going our own way, much like sheep without a shepherd; now, heeding the call of Christ, we change course in order to follow Him more closely. Conversion, renewal is the prime law of the Christian vocation, for it means nothing else other than following Christ, and following Christ means rejecting everything that is not of Christ: sin. With this in mind, one could understand the urgency of the message of the psalm, which says: Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you!
As we may have pondered last Sunday, sin holds this destructive power over us; much like in the case of the paralytic of today’s gospel, it deprives us of the strength to do good and to live in freedom as we should. Only the merciful love of God can restore the vitality that we have lost by sin; it is a love that we see in the person of Jesus Christ, whom we come to touch most especially in the sacraments. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, give us the strength to live according to the love of God, because they bring us the gift of grace. Much like what the waters of a river do to an arid wasteland, grace revives and nourishes the person, proportioning him with the more strength to live according to the freedom of the sons and daughters of God
Furthermore, grace sustains us in the struggle to follow Christ always. Conversion is not a matter of the moment: it is the work of a lifetime. Every moment gives us the opportunity to face Christ, to start all over again if we fall down, and to renew our commitment to take up our own cross (whenever it slides off our shoulders due to our own lack of faith) and follow Him. The everyday struggle of following Jesus in our daily life should not make us lose heart at the sight of the difficulty that it poses to us. The Second Reading, taken from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, shows us that God is faithful, and that His fidelity is our guarantee that the means to victory over sin and death will always be at our disposal. After all, He has put his seal on us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a just installment.
These are considerations that could as well help us as we prepare ourselves for Lent, which is a specially indicated time for personal conversion, a daily struggle of a lifetime, in which the aid of God’s grace and the strength of the Spirit would never be lacking.
May the Lord Jesus be our constant companion and model as we continue to heed his call to be holy like the heavenly Father, a vocation that is translated into the effort of renewal and conversation in every moment of our lives. Amen.
FIRST READING: Is 43:18-19; 21-22; 24b-25
SECOND READING: 2 Cor 18-22
GOSPEL: Mk 2:1-12