September 30, 2011

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Jesus’ words help us see a miracle even when it’s hard to see

Debra TomaselliAt age 33, my brother died of sudden kidney failure. We prayed for a miracle, but it never came.

However, reading the Gospel of Mark (Mk 2:4-11), paraphrased below, my perspective changed.

“Try going to the left,” the Pharisee shouted.

The men carrying a stretcher paused, surveying the crowd overflowing the tiny house. It was impassable to the left, too. Their paralyzed friend was on the mat, and they were determined to get him inside where Jesus was preaching.

Everyone sought Jesus, who dispelled demons, diminished fevers and cleansed a leper. The mob consisted of religious leaders and teachers, sick and elderly, young and healthy people, including the men who brought their paralytic friend in hopes of a cure.

“We’ve got to get him to Jesus,” the man carrying the stretcher said, motioning to the crowd. He pushed forward, but there was no way through the throng.

They looked at each other. One surveyed the clay roof of the tiny house. The other nodded.

“We can do it,” he said. “Let’s get up on the roof and then we can lower him in to see Jesus.”

One man scrambled onto the roof while the other pushed the stretcher up from the ground. Others offered assistance, stabilizing the paralytic and his mat.

Finally, they dug a hole in the roof and were able to lower the sick man on his pallet inside—near Jesus.

When Jesus saw how strongly they believed that he would help, Jesus said to the sick man, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5).

Disgruntled murmurs permeated the crowd. The religious leaders cast angry glances at one another.

“Who does this guy think he is?” they mumbled. “Only God can forgive sins.”

I can only imagine the feelings of the people who struggled to get their friend in front of Jesus. They battled the crowds, lifted the paralytic, labored to dig the hole, and lowered him into the room, and now this? “Your sins are forgiven?”

Where was the healing? Why wasn’t he walking? Had they wasted their efforts?

I have been there. When my brother lay dying of kidney failure, I prayed for his healing. I asked Jesus to be with him. I interceded on his behalf. Yet, while Jim was still connected to IV needles and tubes, pumps and monitors, he succumbed to the dreaded disease.

Where was God? Where was the healing?

I found the answer in Jesus’ response to the crowd surrounding the paralytic. His words resonate today. He points to the real miracle. Listen again, as I paraphrase Mark 2:9-11.

Why does this bother you? I, the Messiah, have the authority on Earth to forgive sins. But talk is cheap. Anybody could say that. So I’ll prove it to you by healing this man.

Then he ordered the man to get up and go home, and he did.

Miracles happen. They attract us to Jesus. But the physical healing simply underscores a greater gift. The ultimate healing is the forgiveness of sins. That’s what Jesus first offered. That’s what Jesus is all about.

My brother didn’t pick up his mat from that hospital room and go home. At least not in the way I expected.

And yet, he did go home—to God.

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is

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