Prisons and Prejudice
Opening Question: Have you ever like you were in prison? You couldn’t go where you wanted or do what you wanted to do. Someone bossed you around.
First Reading: Isaiah 43: 18-19, 21, 24-25
Joseph lived a long time ago in a time without TV or computers, or video games. He lived in a country his parents said was not his own. And he lived in a neighborhood controlled by people who claimed to be his enemy.
Why weren’t his people free? Joseph thought. Why couldn’t they go home? Joseph asked a lot of people. Finally, his grandfather gave him a straight answer. “Joseph,” his grandfather sighed, “we are prisoners in a land not our own. People in this city hate us.”
“Why are we here, grandfather?” Joseph asked.
“Because we were so selfish, we didn’t see the enemy coming. Because we were so selfish, we didn’t treat each other well enough to band together and show a united strength. Because we were so selfish, we stopped praying to God,” his grandfather replied.
“Doesn’t God want to forgive us?” Joseph asked.
His grandfather sighed again and lowered his eyes. “I hope so,” his grandfather said. “I hope so.”
The next year, everything changed. A new leader came to the city. Joseph’s people were freed. They went home to rebuild their city and their lives. God had forgiven their selfishness and gave them new hope.
Bridging Question: Do you know of anyone who has to use a wheelchair? How are they like everyone else?
Gospel: Mark 2:1-12
A few days after he healed the leper, Jesus returned to Capernaum. People heard, “Jesus is back home.” So many people came to his house that they couldn’t fit around his front door. And Jesus explained God’s message to them.
Then, four men tried to bring in a paralyzed man on a stretcher, but could not reach Jesus because of the crowd. So, they removed the roof above Jesus, dug through the ceiling, and lowered the man. When Jesus saw the strength of their trust in him, he said to the paralyzed man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Some of the experts in the Law of Moses sat in the crowd and felt shock. “Why does he say these things? He insults God!” the experts thought. “Who else has the power to forgive sin but God?”
Immediately, Jesus sensed what they were thinking. “Why do you wonder about what I said?” Jesus asked. “What’s easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher, and walk.’ So you’ll know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins here and now,” Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and told him, “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He got up, picked up his stretcher, and walked out in front of everyone. “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” everyone exclaimed.
Danny was a good kid, but sometimes he would say the wrong thing. He would speak before he thought. And his mouth would get him in trouble.
At gym, one day, Danny was a team captain for basketball. As they were choosing kids to be on their teams, a new kid appear in gym clothes. Rolling his way out to the court in a wheelchair. Danny said to the other captain, “The new kid is yours. How can he play basketball in a wheelchair?” Doug, the new kid in the wheelchair just smiled.
At first, everyone ignored Doug, but that didn’t stop his hustle. Soon Doug was in the thick of the action and stole the ball. Everyone ran down to the opposite court while Doug rolled and dribbled. Doug turned on one wheel and shot the ball from half court with one hand. Whooosh! The ball went into the basket. All net.
Danny mumbled something about luck. Doug just smiled, as he rolled back into the action. Again Doug stole the ball. One of his team mates ran down court. Doug threw him a perfect pass and the teammate scored. Danny just grunted.
Through the entire game, Doug dominated the play. Fancy passes and fancy shots. Doug did it all from his wheelchair. When the bell rang, Doug rolled over to Danny. “Next time I can be on your team.” Doug began to roll away. Danny stood there speechless.
“Doug! Wait!” Danny called out as he ran over to the boy in the wheelchair. “I’m sorry about what I said.”
“Sometimes disabilities are more than physical,” Doug said. For a moment both boys said nothing. Then Doug added, “I forgive you. Say, what are you doing for lunch, Danny?”
Danny smiled, “Playing games in the computer lab. Do you want to play?”
“Sure,” Doug replied. That day, a prejudice died and a friendship began.
Sometimes disabilities are more than physical. Prejudices disable our hearts. Jesus recognized that when he forgave the paralyzed man. His disability was nothing like the hard hearts the experts in the Law of Moses had. They couldn’t see that forgiveness can heal a disability. Jesus had to prove it to them.
That’s the lesson Danny learned. Let’s learn it, too.
Closing Question: How can people with disabilities help us? How have you let them help you?