If silence is God’s first language, God’s second language is poetry. As I was looking at snow flurries last week, I thought, “Rain is prosaic; snow is poetic.” Isaiah (35:1-10) speaks the language of poetry to describe the saving power of God. God will bring the people back from exile. God will restore all things. God will renew all things. The Spirit of the Risen Christ—the Cosmic Christ—dwells within us and within all of creation and is ever making things new as creation continues to flare forth. The Christ presides over the chaos and void in our world and in our lives and is making all things news—a new heaven and a new earth where justice is at home according to Paul. We await the fullness of the promise.
Desolate parched lands will exult and blossom forth. They will rejoice with joyful song. Glory will be bestowed upon the barren land. The splendor and glory of God will burst forth. Further on Isaiah says that streams and rivers will burst forth in the barren regions, burning sand will pool with water. The land that sheltered the jackal will now host the reed and papyrus. This is the poetry of transformation, the poetry of Advent. God in God’s splendor is making all things new. The great reversal is starting.
This explosion of God’s splendor will cause us to burst forth. Our feeble hands and weak knees will be strengthened. Isaiah knows that change like this is frightening; therefore, he tells us to “Be strong, fear not.” God is coming to save and renew us. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap, and the mute will sing. Transformation!
God is preparing a holy road for our return to paradise. We shall walk toward Paradise singing and rejoicing. We have been ransomed from our false selves and are returning to our true selves where God dwells deep within. There we will find joy and gladness; “sorrow and mourning will flee.” With Job we shout, “Rejoice, our redeemer liveth.”
Justice and peace shall kiss. The lion and the lamb will lie together. Justice and salvation have come to us. Right order will be restored. All will be well. All will be well.
Jesus’ healing of the paralytic (Lk 5:17-26) signals the new order. Jesus claims the power to heal and to forgive sins, the ultimate healing. The friends of the paralytic are determined. The doorway is blocked by the crowds. Time to get creative. We can imagine how they struggled to raise the litter to the roof so they could remove the tiles and place their friend before Jesus. Imagine Jesus’ surprise when, in the midst of his teaching, he hears the scraping of the tiles being removed and then sees a paralytic on a stretcher is being lowered right before him. But, Jesus does not miss a beat. He understands the great faith of the man and his loyal friends. Without question, Jesus said, “As for you your sins are forgiven.” (The belief that sin illness is the result of sin still prevails even though we now have a different perspective.) Luke’s message is clear. Jesus has power over sin and is able to bestow the gift of forgiveness; therefore, he is fulfilling the promises of Isaiah. He is the Christ.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law have come from far and near—Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee. Many had traveled great distances to hear the Man from Galilee. Jesus does not disappoint. He teaches by way of a miraculous cure. He proclaims that he has the power to heal and forgive sins. Charges of blasphemy come forth from the religious leaders. Jesus is getting on their turf. He is claiming power greater than they have. He will liberate the paralytic. “Rise and walk.” The paralytic will rejoice and leap like a stag. He has been made whole.
We live in the Kin-dom which, as they say on the Internet, is under construction as we speak. We live and walk in the power, presence and person of the Risen Jesus.
In healing ministry we frequently see the power of God made manifest. Healings occur. Often, something deeper than a physical healing has taken place. We need but claim Jesus’ power and minister to the sick among us. God wants to make all things new. God wants deserts to bloom and paralytics to leap like stags. God wants rivers and streams to flow through the parched parts of our hearts. God wants us to have life and to have everything we need (John 10:10).
God is actually calling us to do much more. When Jesus healed, he was challenging the structures which were keeping the people in oppression. Healing was the bailiwick of the priestly class which, in collaboration with the Roman oppressors, was taxing and tithing the people to death. God wants us to challenge the structures of violence which can cause people to be sick.
Oppressive structures cause illness. People who feel they are oppressed and who lack hope feel less than human. They internalize the oppression. They feel worthless before those who exploit them. They feel hopeless. Their hands are feeble and their knees are weak. We tell them, “Do not fear. God is coming to save us. God is coming to liberate you from oppression.” Yes, we lay hands on and heal. Then we go on to ask, with Dom Helder Camara, why they are sick? What structures are binding them?
Dom camera was all right with the authorities as long as he fed the poor. He crossed the line when he asked why they are poor. When we wonder why people are oppressed, we too cross the line from Christian to socialist. When we devise strategies to challenge the economic and political systems that oppress and exploit, the “Pharisees and teachers of the law” who have come from far and wide will say that we blaspheme. But blaspheme we must. Our God is liberating us from sin, disease, and oppression.
We must “blaspheme” because our timid, subservient, conservative church leaders will not. Last week, with complete disregard for Catholic social teaching, candidate Newt (Why is he named after a lizard?) Gingrich denigrated the poor. Has anyone seen a bishop or someone in authority in the church challenges his distortion of Catholic doctrine? Therefore, we must “blaspheme” from the roof tops!