Writers and speakers tend to go through phases where we repeat themes. The current theme for the diocese of Reno Nevada is discipleship and apostleship. This Sunday, Bishop Emeritus Philip Straling celebrated the 9:30 Mass. He began his homily by discussing a parish in San Diego when vandals broke a state of Jesus by removing its hands. The parish priest argued that the statue should remain as is. We are the hands of Christ in our world.
On 19 February, we will read the story of the paralytic. The Gospel of St. John, chapter 9, begins a very Semitic story about why men are born blind, or have other problems, such as paralysis. Verse two asks, “Rabbi, who failed, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Some conclude Jews believed deformities such as blindness and paralysis come from moral failure of some kind. Being a very Semitic story, the point is in verse three, “Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents failed; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” There are other reasons than moral failure to explain why people suffer in the world.
We read the story of the paralytic, a child who may have no more failure than anyone else. He may be a victim of child abuse. Read, “When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralytic, “Child, your failures are forgiven.” Child abuse includes convincing the victim that they deserve their abuse. Child abuse includes filling the child with guilt. The grammarians say in Mark 2:7, “Why does this man speak that way? He slanders. Who but God alone can forgive failures?” They miss the point. In the process, they leave even more guilt on the child than he had before.
Paralyzed only by guilt, two things are necessary for the child to walk again. He must believe that the Son of Man has the power to forgive and that everything he did in the past that failed will succeed now. Psalm 8:4 refers to Son of Man, not as the special figure Daniel 7:13 uses to refer to Messiah. In Mark 2, Son of Man refers first to Jesus, and next to all men. All have the authority to forgive moral failures.
Matthew 7:2 states, “As you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” The way we forgive others is they way God will judge us at the second coming. Jesus is soon leaving town. When he does, he leaves behind a past paralytic, already behind in his learning. While others his age learned, he lay paralyzed. This is so much like today’s situation. Jesus is gone to heaven and we await his return. Other Sons of Man must be his hands and help the past paralytics catch up. That is us! We are the hands for Jesus, not for a statue, but for the Physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The theme of discipleship and apostleship is about discipline and going out. We must be a lad all of our lives. Jesus tells us, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Hebrew word for a child is “ילד,” “A lad.” We must be disciples, always learning, using Lectio Divina, reading Torah, Prophets, Writings, Gospel, Epistles, and Catechism to learn our faith.
We are apostles/“Sent out.” Bishop Straling related how the first reading refers to the story of Jonah whose name in Hebrew means “Dove.” The Dove also represents the Holy Spirit. “Spirit” is a fancy Latin word meaning wind/moving air. Mark 4 is the parable of the Sower. In the story, good soil is spirited/aerated. Bad soil is as a path/trampled down/hard, a rock, hard, and soil made hard with the roots of weeds. We need to be spiritual/soft, and like Jonah, fishermen. Nineveh is Aramaic for “Fish City.” If we take the spirit God plants within us and go in other directions, a live fish will swallow us, returning us to our job of converting others.
In Aramaic, Barnabas means son/bar of the prophet/navy/nabas. The Navy has a process to advance raw recruits through its ranks. Sailors must take classes in military and vocational standards. They must also show they learned their discipline through performance reviews. These reviews include military and vocational standards. Latin has a word, “Profession,” “The way we profess our faith.” Latin also has “Vocation,” “Our calling.” Our vocation as plumbers, pipefitters, managers, and secretaries, is our calling to show our faith. Whether we like it or not, and whether we know it or not, how we behave in our work lives, and in our private lives, reflects upon ourselves, and our Catholic faith.
Being a secular professional means being cold and uncaring, a machine more concerned with the welfare of unseen and nameless stockholders. Being a Catholic/Christian professional means being spiritual, soft, having the spirit of the Personal Name. This is a spirit of wisdom/skill, of building up our charges/ understanding, A spirit of counsel/being like a tree, soft on the outside, strong on the inside, and of strength, a spirit of knowledge/a collection of experiences and of looking to the Personal Name. It also includes: a spirit of love, joy, peace, long spiritedness, sweetness, and a loving heart, faith, hope, deep spiritedness and Zen. Galatians 5:22-23
Let us go out into the world, showing our belief in the Physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, by showing this faith in our personal and professional lives.