The First Reading today speaks of the desert and dry land blooming abundantly. It tells those who hear, to strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come to save you.” This encourages the weak, those who have no strength, those who are fearful. It tells them: be strong, do not fear! The coming of Jesus is an event we are not to fear. It is an event to be welcomed because when Jesus comes, he comes to save those who trust him. While he will come with vengeance, he will also come to save. The question is: how can we be those he saves, rather than those who will face his vengeance?
The answer to this is in the Gospel. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law sat near as Jesus was teaching. Then some men came carrying a paralytic. They could not get to Jesus so they went up the roof if the house and lowered the man in front of Jesus. Luke tells us he saw their faith. These men brought down the paralytic because they believed Jesus could heal the man. Jesus did more than that. He forgave the sins of the man, which made the scribes and Pharisees complain. In response, Jesus said which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say “Stand up and walk?” Both are easy to say, but whether these happen or not, is another thing. To prove Jesus has power to forgive sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to stand up and take his bed and go to his house. The man did just that.
The scribes and Pharisees knew the Law. They were also watching Jesus. This shows that salvation is not in knowledge of Scripture. It is also not in watching Jesus. But salvation is faith in Jesus, daring to approach him and asking him to heal us. We come to him in humility so we will be saved. The Psalm tells us God will speak peace to his people. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him. Fearing the Lord is what ensures our salvation. By fear, we mean standing in awe of God, recognizing who he is.
St Ambrose is known as the Bishop who led and baptized St Augustine of Hippo. He was known to teach against the prevailing heresy at that time: Arianism. He also said Let you door stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace. Throw wide the gate of your heart, stand before the sun of the everlasting light. He tells us to open ourselves to Jesus so we can stand before Christ in peace.
Lord, open my heart so I can hear what you speak: peace to your people, salvation for those who fear you. Let me come before you, accepting you as you are. Here I am, as I open wide the gate of my heart. I open the door to my heart to you. I unlock my soul to you and welcome you in my mind. St Ambrose, pray that I may open myself to Jesus and welcome him when he comes, so he can save me.