We can’t do it on our own.

The Second Sunday of Lent, the Sunday of the Paralytic

Heb 1,10-14;2,1-3

Mark 2:1-12

At the start of our Epistle reading today, it speaks of “In the beginning”.
That, of course, is talking about the beginning of God’s creation. However, there is another beginning in scripture, the beginning of human civilization. That beginning wasn’t with Adam and Eve, but with their sons, Cain and Abel.

Cain was an agriculturist, and Abel raised livestock. They each brought an offering to God. Abel’s was accepted, but Cain’s was rejected. We’re not sure why, except that Cain did something wrong in presenting it.

Apparently, pride was what caused Cain to do what he did next; he killed his brother.

When God confronted him, Cain’s reaction was “Am I my brother’s keeper”. Obviously, the answer to Cain’s question is a resounding YES.

Today’s Gospel shows 4 men acting as their brother’s keeper. If they hadn’t carried him and let him down through a hole in the roof, he wouldn’t have met Jesus. If they hadn’t brought him, he wouldn’t have had his sins forgiven. If they hadn’t carried him, he would not have been healed.

In a very real way, the paralytic owed his salvation to his friends. It was through their willingness to help him that he was brought to salvation, to healing, to Jesus. Through their mercy towards him, they became co-redeemers along with Jesus. 

And we are called by Christ to minister to others. In teaching about the last judgment, Jesus said, "The righteous will answer him and say, ‘‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’"

My friends, we are in this together. There are some who think that the Christian Life is just “me and Jesus”.  But man was created in the image and likeness of God, and while God is one, God is still a community - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the same way, our relationship with God, while it is personal - a relationship with the one God - it is also a relation with a community.

When we worship, it’s as a community.  Obviously, we are all assembled here as a community.  But, in Hebrews we read, “No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel”.  That is one reason we’re surrounded by all these icons of saints.

And we live our day to day lives in that same community - what the author of Hebrews calls “the assembly of the first born”.  Last week’s Epistle talked about a number of Old Testament saints, and then ended with, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith”. That group surrounding us is  what the Apostles Creed calls The Communion of Saints. Running the race is our Christian life. 

The takeaway from all that is the realization that we can’t do it on our own. That’s why God became man to save us - because we can’t do it on our own.  That’s why he gives us this earthly community - because we can’t  do it on our own. That’s why we have the Communion of Saints - because we can’t do it on our own.

So, how do we apply it?

The first thing is to be like the four friends of the paralytic. Be a co-redeemer for your brothers - for everyone you meet, if possible.  Practice the Corporal Acts of Mercy in a spiritual way: 

Feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty?  People in our world hunger and thirst for some connection, for some sense that this world is not all there is.

  Minister to the sick? Do you realize that the Eucharist is called The Medicine of Immortality? The natural human state is sick - from selfishness, from hatred - from SIN. Christ is the only remedy that will last.

To meet spiritual needs, to be a true co-redeemer, you need the Spiritual Acts of Mercy: admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the afflicted, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses from the heart, and pray for the living and the dead.

And what if you’re the paralytic? What if it’s you that needs help?

The first thing you can do is ask. I’ve been part of this congregation for almost 19 years now, and, frankly, I’ve found you to be a wonderful group of people. So, if you need help, I’m sure you can find it.

But, beyond that - you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. The saints will gladly help with their prayers.  And they are effective prayers.  They will gladly become your personal co-redeemer.

But there’s one co-redemptrix for all Christians.  If when Gabriel came to the Virgin and said, you will have a son, she could have said no.  But she didn’t, did she? She consented to be the Mother of God incarnate.  And on the Cross, He gave her to all of us as Mother.

Ask her, and, in her motherly love, she will help.