THE SIN, THE SICK, THE DESPERATE: A HOMILY ON MONDAY, 2ND WEEK OF ADVENT
There are two major ways we begin prayers in the Catholic Church and in both cases the sign of the cross is made. The only difference is what you say while making the sign of the cross. The first one is when we say ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. The second one is when we say ‘O God, come to our aid! O Lord, make haste to help us.’ There is a third version, but this one is used when you are praying the first divine office of the day and in this case the sign of the cross is made over the lips while saying ‘O Lord open our lips! And we shall praise your name’. I will like to reflect on the second one we have here as we reflect on the readings of the day.
The words ‘O God come to our aid! O Lord, make haste to help us!’ are words of people who are in a desperate situation. Many of us do not think we are in a desperate situation. It is bad enough to be in a desperate situation, but not to know you are in a desperate situation is even worse. As a child, each time I hear that Jesus died to save me, I always wondered what He is saving me from, because I did not think I was in any desperate situation which requires the death of someone to save me. It is when we understand how desperate our situation is that we will begin to appreciate the coming of Christ and why we say ‘O Lord, make haste to help us’. Our first reading describes the redemption of a world which is in a desperate situation. Isaiah describes a wilderness, dry land, wasteland, weary hands, trembling knees, faint hearts, blind eyes, deaf ears, the lame, dumb tongues, the unclean, foolish people, lions and fierce beasts, sorrow and lament, etc. It is to a world in this state that Isaiah prophesies the comming of the messiah who will change all these negative situations into positive ones.
The psalm says ‘Look, our God is coming to save us’. Sometimes we know our situation is desperate, but we do not know the extent to which it is desperate or we do not know what really makes it desperate. The people in the gospel brought a paralysed man to Jesus. They know the man’s condition is desperate, that is why they went to the extent of taking off the roof in order to lower the man into the room where Jesus is. But when Jesus saw the man, He first forgave the man’s sins before curing his physical sickness. Yes, they know he is physically sick, but they did not know that that was not his wrose problem.
Whenever I visit the sick, I could see they cannot wait to get well and go home. But when I ask if they will like to confess their sins, they will most of the time give me a very quick and emphatic ‘NO Father’ or ‘NO Doctor’. I am not saying they are sick because of their sins, though that can sometimes be the case. If you think of our church in the past, people went more for confessions than they did to Communion. Today, the opposite is the case. Many of us pray desperately for a lot of things, which we think we desperately need. But how many of us consider our sins to be our worse problem? If we truly know how desprate we are, we will understand why prayer is important and we will understand what it means to say, ‘O Lord, make haste to help us’.