St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Trinity XIX : Fr Tony Hogg

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 It wasn’t his fault that he was a passenger in life, and his friend had to carry him along. He had palsy, or paralysis, or ‘polio’. The first fact to notice, however, is that he was a passenger.
There are people in every community who are passengers. They contribute almost nothing, they expect everything to be done for them: they are, of course, indescribably dull. Perhaps it isn’t always their fault. Perhaps they just lack ideas. Perhaps life only pumps feebly through their bodies and minds. They are ‘weaker brethren’, and Christian people must always be ready to carry them in life.
It looks as if the man’s paralysis in today’s Gospel reading was his own fault. This is not always, perhaps, not often the case, but it does seem possible here, or why did Jesus begin, ‘Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.’ Perhaps the man was regretting the life he had lived. Perhaps he reckoned it was too late for him to expect a chance now. So he was depressed, and his depression was increasing his paralysis. His is a clear case of ‘mind’ affecting body.
It is possible that some of the passengers in the community, even in the church, or in the home need not be passengers at all. But it is their fault. They have never really laid hold on what the Christian faith really offers us. It offers us the knowledge that God has a purpose for each one of us, however different we may be from our neighbours. At the Lord’s Table the words are not only specific, but they are individual. ‘The body of our Lord Jesus which was given for THEE, preserve THY body and soul unto everlasting life.’ It is for each one of us to believe in God, and to rise up to the call which comes in Christ. Today at the Mass Christ says to every communicant, ‘Arise and walk.’ Make your contribution to the life around you, and do not be carried along.
In Capernaum they marveled when they saw this paralytic walking and carrying his mattress. That is what people’s reaction should be to what they see going on in churches – ‘passengers’ being turned into contributing citizens. It can happen when we believe what the Mass proclaims. Do we believe it? Have we, dear friends really thought how the Christ is looking at us today, and calling, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee. Arise and walk. Don’t be a passenger anymore, stand up on your feet. Make your contribution to life now.’
We are all called to be stretcher bearers for those in need of a human touch; that is the true meaning of evangelization.  It is something we are all called upon to do, but good friends, we know that it can and should work both ways – there may well be occasions when we need someone to be our stretcher bearer. Someone, a friend, a work colleague, a priest, to ease comfort and carry us through whatever burden we are carrying. St Peter in his first Epistle describes it as being ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within. Through our baptism this is our call to share one another’s burdens.
We can simply share our hope in the passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ for our redemption and the difference He has made in our life right now. As a stretcher carrier, we are called to bring people before Christ and leave the results with Him. It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God’s grace we have received.
So may you all be blessed this week in being able to carry those who may ask you to stretcher them to newness of life.


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