Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 23, 2003
Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; 2 Cor 1:18-22
Mk 2:1-12

Healing the Deeper Wound

There are times when certain aspects of life strike us more. In one week you meet or hear of several people who have moved house, or had injuries, or contracted cancer. In the last week I have heard of a lot of friends and acquaintances who have had big troubles to bear. I also came across the Buddhist story of Kisagotami that throws useful light on dealing with such situations.

Kisagotami was a young woman whose first child died suddenly when just one year old. Desperate in her love for her child she went from house to house in her village, clasping her dead child to her breast, asking for a medicine to revive her child. Eventually, she was directed to the Buddha as the only one who could help her. "Yes," he said, "I can make that medicine for you but first I will need a handful of mustard seed from a house where no child, parent, husband or servant has died."
Slowly, as she went from house to house and heard why her neighbors could not give what she asked for, Kisagotami came to see that hers was not a unique predicament. She put the body of her child down in the forest and returned to the Buddha. "I have not brought the mustard seed," she told him, "the people of the village told me, 'The living are few but the dead are many.'" The Buddha replied, "You thought that you alone had lost a son: the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence."

Kisatogami's story resonates, not just because of our sympathy for the horror of losing a child or because of the fear of a world in which such tragedy is possible but because we all, like her, feel that our situation is unique and that our emotional pain requires relief. In the privacy of our own minds we are aggrieved and totally self-centered. We are saying it is unfair that this should happen to ME.

The most significant line of the story for me was when she lay the body of her child down in the forest. The Buddha did not give her a way of satisfying her primal emotions of love towards her child. He helped her to find happiness, not by bringing the child back to life, but by changing her view of herself. He helped her to move beyond the private childish perspective of "why me" that we all indignantly harbor.
The paralytic in today's Gospel was probably a very hurt man, a paralyzed man, inside also. He too probably asked the question WHY ME? But he had friends who were willing to do something. They would bring him to Jesus the healer. When they got there, so many other wounded people were seeking him that they had to take the man up on to the roof to let him down before Jesus. In our story Jesus healed the man, but like the Buddha Jesus was more concerned about curing the attitudes in the man's heart. Jesus set him free to see reality in a new way.

We can have one level of prayer where we seek to be set free externally. That is quite human and legitimate. But there can be another form of prayer that opens us to acceptance of all that comes from God and frees us inside so that we can live more full lives. This way of prayer is meditation. Being still with the prayer word, we very gently get into the transforming stream of the divine wisdom who dwells in our hearts.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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