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Rev. James Martin, S.J. Headshot

Parables Of The Not-So-Social Gospel

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The Lazy Paralytic

1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home. 2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, "Why did you wreck my roof? Do you have any idea how much that cost to install? Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof? The reeds alone cost five talents. I had them carted in from Bethany." 6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions. He continued, "This house is my life." The disciples fell silent. 7. "It's bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?" said Jesus, "And did you not see the stone walls around this house?" "Yes," said the man's friends. "Are these not the stone walls native to the Land of Galilee? 8. "No," Jesus answered. "This is a gated community. How did you get in?" The man's friends grew silent. 9. Then Jesus turned to the paralytic and said, "Besides, can't you take care of your own health problems? I'm sure that you're family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue." 10. "No, Lord," answered the man's friends. "There is no one. His injuries are too severe. To whom else can we go?" 11. "Well, not me," said Jesus. "What would happen if I provided free health care for everyone? That would mean that people would not only get lazy, but they would take advantage of the system. 12. Besides, look at me: I'm healthy. And you know why? Because I worked hard for my money." The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus. "But I did work, Lord," said the paralytic. "But an accident rendered me paralyzed." "Yes," said the man's friends. "He worked very hard." 13. "Well," said Jesus, "That's just part of life, isn't it?" "Then what am I to do, Lord?" said the paralytic. "I don't know. Why don't you sell your mat?" 14. All in the crowd then grew sad. "Actually, you know what you can do?" said Jesus. "You can reimburse me for my roof. Or I'll sue." And all were amazed. 15. "We have never seen anything like this," said the crowd.

The Very Poorly Prepared Crowd

1. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, "Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place." 2 But Jesus said to them, "Why not give them something to eat?" They said, 'We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people. 3 For there were about five thousand men. And Jesus said to his disciples, "You know what? You're right. Don't waste your time and shekels. It would be positively immoral for you to give away your hard-earned salaries for these people. They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves to bring more food. As far as I'm concerned, it's every five thousand men for themselves." 4. The disciples were astonished by this teaching. "But Lord," said Thomas. "The crowd will go hungry." Jesus was amazed at his hard-headedness. "That's not my problem, Thomas. Better that their stomachs are empty than they become overly dependent on someone in authority to provide loaves and fishes for them. Where will it end? Will I have to feed them everyday?" "No, Lord," said Thomas, "Just today. When they are without food. When they have eaten their fill, they will be healthy, and so able to listen to your word and learn from you." Jesus was grieved at Thomas's answer. "It is written: There's no such thing as a free lunch." So taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and took one loaf and one fish for himself, and gave the rest to the twelve, based on their previously agreed-upon per diem. But he gave none to the very poorly prepared crowd because they needed to be taught a lesson. So Jesus ate and was filled. The disciples somewhat less so. What was left over was gathered up and saved for Jesus's next meal, should he grow hungry. The very poorly prepared crowd soon dispersed.

The Rich and Therefore Blessed Young Man

1. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 2. And Jesus said to him, "What have you done so far?" 3. And he said to Him, "Well I was born into a wealthy family, got into a good school in Galilee because my parents donated a few thousand talents, and have a high-paying job in the Roman treasury managing risk." 4. Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, for the rich young man was blessed, and said to him, "One thing you lack: A bigger house in a gated community in Tiberias. Buy that and you'll be all set. And make sure you get a stone countertop for the kitchen. Those are really nice." The disciples were amazed. 5. Peter asked him, "Lord, shouldn't he sell all his possessions and give it to the poor?" Jesus grew angry. "Get behind me, Satan! He has earned it!" Peter protested, "Lord," he said, "Did this man not have an unjust advantage? What about those who are not born into wealthy families, or who do not have the benefit of a good education, or live in the poorer areas of Galilee, like Nazareth, your own home town?" 6. "Well," said Jesus, "first of all, that's why I left Nazareth. There were too many poor people always asking for charity. They were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and they annoyed me. Second, once people start spending again, like this rich young man, the Galilean economy will inevitably grow, and eventually it will all trickle down to the poor. Blessed are those who are patient! But giving the money away, especially if he can't write it off, is a big fat waste." The disciples' amazement knew no bounds. "But Lord, what about the Scriptures that tell us to care for the widow, for orphans, for the poor, for the sick, for the refugee? What about all the many passages about justice?" 7. "Those are metaphors," said Jesus. "Don't take everything so literally."

Originally published in America Magazine.

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