Roof Breakthrough in Mark 2

After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying… (Mark 2)

These verses from the beginning of the second chapter of Mark (which we read at Holy Mass today) were my dear departed aunt’s favorite passage of Scripture.

What happened here with the breaking through of the roof, for the sake of the paralytic: This event gives us two subtle but powerful indications of the divinity of Jesus.

confessional1) “Jesus immediately knew in His mind what they were thinking to themselves.” God knows even the most secret of our thoughts. Nothing can be hid from His gaze. We would not have minds to have thoughts in, if God were not at every moment sustaining the existence and power of our minds. Whenever I so much as think something, or even ‘half-think’ it, God knows. Jesus knows.

2) “Child, you sins are forgiven.” Child, the faith of your friends has pleased God. Child, you are right as rain, you can stand tall, you can sleep the sleep of the just tonight, because mercy is everlasting.

But: ‘Who but God alone can forgive sins?’ Excellent question. Excellent rhetorical question. Christ quibbles not with this statement. The Church does not quibble. The idea that anyone but God can forgive sins is absurd. Of course only God can forgive sins. Sins are affronts against God. That’s what they are. No one but God is competent to forgive them.

By the same token: No one is competent to preclude or impede or foreclose God’s forgiveness of anyone’s sins. God wills to forgive the penitent sinner. He became man to make satisfaction, as one of us, for all the sins of human history. He gave the power to absolve to the priests of His Church. These are acts of God. The sacrament of Penance is God forgiving sins. No quibble. God forgives us through the ministry of the Church when we confess our sins to a priest.

“They were all astounded.” God’s loving penetration, and His profligate mercy in Christ: astounding.

Fell Sergeant, Strict in His Arrest

When your mom has a loving, goal-oriented, gusto-chasing sister who lives within walking distance, you wind up with an extra influence in your formative years.

The sisters.  Cindy on the right.
The sisters. Cindy on the right.
Dear reader, please pray for the repose of my dear aunt Cindy. She died this afternoon of cancer, two weeks shy of her 65th birthday.

She was big-time: Vice-President of a large publishing company. Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA. Distinguished patron of the finest restaurants in Washington. And she kept quite a few charming cats in kibbles over the years, too.

My aunt Cindy taught me to yell “EEEEEE!!!!!” whenever Elvin Hayes took a jumpshot. She taught me how to remain calm during a round of miniature golf. She showed me the best way to drink your morning coffee.

She taught me the meaning of approximately 14,000 words. She risked everything and took a troubled teenage foster-son into her home, who grew up to become one of the most lovable professional skate-boarders I know.

Cindy taught me how to enjoy driving, how to appreciate Rehoboth Beach, how to include champagne in your Easter celebrations, and how to love your brothers and sisters in church (crusty as some of them might be).

She tried to teach me how to behave like a gracious gentleman with a sense of humor. (All my failures on that score must fall on my own head.)

Aunt to left, mom sitting, goofball smiling in St. Peter's Square
Aunt to left, mom sitting, goofball smiling in St. Peter’s Square, Nov. ’08

Cynthia Bolbach’s funeral will occur on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., at
First Presbyterian Church, Arlington, Va.
Requiescat in pace.

Please come and give me a hug after the service, if you can. Or give me a hug the next time you see me. Or give me a spiritual hug by saying some prayers for Cindy, for my mom and brother, and for me.

Firing on All Pistons

On Friday a friend of mine left me a little note. It was very direct. “Wizards suck.”

She was not taunting me. It was her bitter lament. She is ten times the Wizards fan I am.

(I am STILL getting over the name change. Thanks to my dear aunt taking my brother and me to the Capital Center, I fell in love with the team of Elvin “The Big E” Hayes and Wes Unseld. When I was seven, I learned to yell, “EEEEEEE!” and then yell, “Awwww” if he missed. Meanwhile, I never associated Gandalf with basketball.)

Anyway, the Wizards were 0-1 on Friday, when I received the note. Being a Christian and a priest, I wrote back: “Keep hope alive.”

The Wizards are 0-2 now, but hope endures nonetheless. The Pistons that beat us last night are a seriously good team.

During the second quarter, the Wizards outscored the Pistons 31-20. At one point, the Wizards went on a 16-0 run. In the last 6:55 of the first half, the Wizards outscored the mighty Pistons 22-4, and the Wizards were leading at halftime. It was like when I was on the freshman St. Albans team, and we were beating St. John’s at halftime, and the coach said to us in the locker room, “Someone call the Washington Post!” They wound up beating us by twenty.

Near the end of the game last night, Phil Chenier said, “If the Wizards had played like this on Wednesday, we would have run away from the Nets by 20 points.”

0-2, yes–but hope is alive.