Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26
Today’s readings in Isaiah and Psalms reflect hopeful and triumphant themes of victory over difficult circumstances. Having celebrated Christ the King Sunday prior to advent, we are reminded that Christ is indeed our Lord and King and the authority from which he rules does not depend on this world. I feel as though I need to be constantly reminded of this truth and my hope needs to be restored as I read the headlines in my morning newspaper. The need for Christ the King to come and save us resonates deeply. When our hearts are frightened about the future, we want to grab on to Isaiah’s words – “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”
Calling to God for help, both individually and corporately as the church, reflects our constant state of dependence upon God and our desire for the King to come and reign. The desert imagery in Isaiah’s text is all too familiar to us, as we experience the desolation that comes from hardship, injustice, or circumstances beyond our control that can surely make us feel weak and helpless. At those times, we ask “Where are you, Lord?” At those times, we need to hear from God and we are ready for Him to come.
But of course He is already there. In my own journey, I find that comfort often comes from a heart that is warmed by understanding. Isaiah writes of the miraculous opening of blind eyes and cleaning out deaf ears, but often my own eyes and ears need opening first. The grace to see things as they are and to hear what we have been missing is part of the consolation we need in those times.
Today’s Gospel carries on this theme of faith and rescue in the story of Jesus healing the paralytic. The paralytic was blessed with friends who faithful and persistent. I wonder what everyone thought as the dust from the roof started coming in and they lowered him down! Surely Jesus was also moved by such a demonstration of friendship. We don’t know much about the faith of the paralytic, but these friends demonstrated their faith so vividly and boldly. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “your sins are forgiven.” Luke tells us that “astonishment seized them all and they glorified God” and they were “struck with awe” as the paralytic took up his stretcher and went home. (And I imagine the friends who carried them exchanged the ancient equivalent of high-fives on the way home.)
All of us have come to God because someone else shared God’s love with us. Through an unbroken chain going back to the Apostles (and beyond), the faithful among God’s people have carried forth the truth of the Gospel, carrying an invitation of hope and a relationship of love and friendship with the God who created us, and who reigns as King forever. Today I am grateful for those people, going back to my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, and friends who have carried me from time to time along the way.
May God open our eyes and clean out our ears. And today may we all be grateful for the grace of friendship and the blessings we enjoy from the faith and faithfulness of others.
By Edward Morse