In those days, Peter’s house was the most frequented in Capernaum. As the sun hid itself behind Carmel, our group, together with a number of village folks, gathered there to discuss our own problems…
Rufa: Yes, that’s fine. We need justice, equality and reforms, but… what about our soul, huh?
Peter: What soul are you talking about, mother-in-law?
Rufa: Yours, Peter, and mine and everybody else’s. If after all this mess we all die and are condemned, then what?
John: But old woman, why are we going to be condemned?
Rufa: Because we’re all sinners, dammit! We gotta worry about cleansing our souls!
A Man: Yeh, yeh, mother-in-law. The soul can wait, ’cuz we gotta feed our stomach first, don’t you think so? The Messiah’s comin’ with enough food for everyone!
Rufa: Well, I’m telling you, Peter. First and foremost, we gotta clear our conscience with the Lord; there’ll be enough time to worry about what to eat. Am I right or wrong, Jesus?
Jesus: I dunno, gran’ma. I think a bird needs two wings in order to fly, but can’t do it with a broken wing.
Rufa: What do you mean by that?
Jesus: God doesn’t separate things from each other. Everything goes together, like the body and soul, heaven and earth, the past and present….
That night, the cold wind blew over Mt. Hermon. Rufina, Peter’s wife, started to prepare soup with roots as an ingredient. The whole neighborhood smelled its aroma and everyone came to partake of it. In a short while, the house was filled with people…
A Man: Hey, I can’t hear a word they’re saying.
A Woman: I heard something like a bird having two wings in order to fly and… Stop pushing, will you? …Look who’s here… the sons of Floro… and the old man too!
Another Man: How come the old fox is here?
Son: We wanna get in. We brought our father here all the way from the other end of the town….
Another Woman: Well, you better go back to where you came from! Don’t you see there ain’t no more space because of the crowd here?
Four young men carried an improvised small bed made of a fishing net and two paddles. Lying on it was Floro, a weak and paralyzed old man. His eyes were red and bulging like those of a frog.
Son: Give way, please!
Man: But how can you get this cripple inside?… There isn’t even room for a needle in there!… Go away, go away!
Floro’s sons tried to slip through the door, through the kitchen and through the yard… but in vain… There was a big crowd. But Floro wasn’t about to give up without seeing Jesus. And then an idea occurred to him.
Son: It’s terrible here, Papa. We better get outta here…
Floro: No way. I’m not budging here without seeing Jesus..
Son: But Papa, there’s nothing we can do. We can’t get in there….
Floro: Bring me up to the roof, then.
Son: How’s that?
Floro: Bring me up to the roof, then lower me through it. For me it would be easy to do…
The four sons removed the paddles and rolled the net around the old man. They raised him up the roof of the house and started to take the clay-covered posts away. Meanwhile, Jesus continued to talk about the Kingdom of God….
Jesus: Yes, the same thing that happens to a bird also happens to a boat whose paddling need be coordinated for it to move ahead. In the Kingdom of God, everything goes in unison; everything.
Rufina: What’s happening here… Peter, for God’s sake, come over and look at this!… They’re boring a hole in our roof! Come, Peter!
Peter: What’s the matter, crazy woman?…
Rufina: Look, Peter; some people are scaling the roof!
Peter: Dammit, what’s happening here…? Hey, you come down immediately or else..! Are you outta your mind? Bring me the broom, Rufina, and I’ll break their necks if they won’t come down…
Rufina: Oh… Peter!
In a matter of seconds, Floro’s sons slid downwards, breaking the middle beam as the roof collapsed over our heads. Amid falling dust and broken posts appeared Floro, the paralytic, like an octopus trapped inside a net….
Peter: Look what you’ve done! You beast, idiots, you sons of a bitch!… You’ve ruined my roof! Who’s gonna repair this now, huh?
Son: We lost our grip and slid…
Peter: Damn! You’ll have to pay for this!
Son: The roof posts are a little rotten, so…
Peter: That’s none of your business! Who ever told you to scale my roof, huh?
Son: Papa told us to….
Peter: Papa, Papa! You call this cretin “Papa”….? Rascal, what a miserable man!
Jesus: That’s enough Peter… It’s really nothing…
Peter: Oh yeah? Have you ever seen a man falling from the sky like a mashed bird, huh? He could’ve harmed my mother-in-law and might’ve killed me!
Jesus: That’s alright… Nobody got hurt…
Peter: But look, everything’s ruined: my roof, my windows, my stairs, everything!
Jesus: Don’t worry, I’ll fix it tomorrow. I’m an expert in roof repairs, you know.
Rufina: You’re an expert, yes… while this old man is an expert in destroying them! Is that right, Floro? You don’t know this man, Jesus. He’s Floro, the cripple. Don’t take pity on this sly fox. Do you know how he broke his legs? He was scaling walls and slipping through rooftops in order to steal. Scoundrel, I’ll give you a good beating!
Peter: Why the hell did you have to pass through the roof and not through the door, huh? Come on, speak up. Your legs may be paralyzed, but not your tongue!…
Floro: Because I’m crippled.
Peter: Yeah, I know… You’re a bandit! That’s what you are, and these four sons of yours are even worse. C’mon, get this rascal outta here!…
Jesus: Hold it Peter…. That’s not the way to handle this. Let him speak first. Why have you come, Floro? And why did you do this?
Floro: Because I wanted to get in. An old woman at the door was driving us away ’cuz “there’s no more room” inside. I really wanted to see you.
Peter: Why didn’t you stay by the window to listen, like the rest?
Floro: Because I wanted to see this man called Jesus who came to the city and cures the sick. My legs are paralyzed.
Rufina: Your sickness is in your hands, you thief! God will not heal you!
Peter: Look, Jesus, this man, as you can see, is a thief. Now he’s useless, but before… If I told you now, you wouldn’t believe me!…
John : This old man stole the candleholders from the synagogue without even blowing the candles out!
Peter: If you lost a dinar, you would find it inside his pocket. He even stole bread and olives so that he and his children would have something to eat!
A Woman: He’s a thief and a drunkard!
A Man: And a gambler!
Rufa: He’s a troublemaker too!
John: Let him go to hell; he’s as sinful as his sons!
Jesus: Is this true, Floro?
Floro: Yes sir. That’s all true. I’m a scoundrel. But my sons are not. My children are good.
Another Man: Good? Everytime Floro and his sons went to the marketplace, it was like a plague had taken over, because they ravaged everything!
Floro: That’s a lie. My sons are honest and decent.
Jesus: Are these four your sons, Floro?
Floro: Yes sir. They’re the older ones. The two pairs are twins.
Jesus: Do you have more children?
Floro: Uhh… I have ten more at home. I have fourteen children.
Jesus: Fourteen? Dammit! You have more than the tribes of Israel!
Floro: My wife gives birth to two at a time.
Jesus: Why did you steal? Didn’t you have a job?
Floro: Yes, but it wasn’t enough with fourteen mouths to feed. My wife would say they’d die of hunger. I worked during the day and stole at night. Yet it was still not enough! I became desperate and cursed the Lord. Yes sir, I committed every sin in violation of the Law. I can’t be forgiven. I’m a sinner yet my children are not. I brought them up to be good and hardworking.
A Man: Your children are as insolent as you, old liar!
Floro: No, no, please don’t say that. They are not like me.
Another Man: A chip off the old block!
Floro: No, spare them please! They’re good. Believe me, stranger, my children aren’t like me.
Jesus: It’s alright, Floro. Take it easy. Look, you trust your children so much. And God trusts you. In the Kingdom of God, everyone has a place, even if he has to slip through the roof. Be happy, Floro: God forgives your sins. Believe me, He’s forgiven your sins.
The paralytic looked at Jesus surprisingly with bulging eyes. He was smiling, though. Everyone was stunned by those words of Jesus….
Man: What did you say, stranger?
Jesus: That God has forgiven Floro.
Man: And who’re you to say that?… This old man’s a scoundrel. He can’t be forgiven….
Jesus: Are you sure?
Man: Of course!
Jesus: Listen to this! Which is easier to say: “Your sins are forgiven”’ or “Your legs are cured”?
Man: Neither of the two. The first is a blasphemy… The second… is impossible.
Jesus: You’re wrong, my friend. There is nothing impossible with God. Haven’t we said before that in the Kingdom of God, everything goes together, like the body and soul…? Come, Floro, you can get up now and go home with your sons….
Then the incredible happened. Old Floro stood up, stretched his legs with great ease, then carried the net and oars that served as his bed, over his shoulders. His face was radiant with great joy. He then looked at us and started to walk. Stunned and scared for what had happened, our gaze followed his steps until he was out of sight. Never had we seen an event like this….
In Jesus’ time and even today, a great number of Oriental dwellings have flat rooftops. These used to rest on a base of beams covered with branches, above which there was a layer of flattened clay. In ordinary houses this beam structure was made of sycamore wood. In big buildings, wood of stronger material, like cedar, had to be used. This type of light and provisional construction – wherein the roof could be raised during hot weather – explains how Floro, the paralytic, could be lowered from the roof to the interior part of Peter’s house. The neighbors who were gathered on that day occupied not only the entire space of the house which was extremely small, but also clustered in the yard which was shared by several families in the neighborhood.
The dualistic idea is deeply-rooted in religious thought. On one hand, one speaks of sacred things, persons and places; and on the other of profane things, persons and places. People are said to have a soul (that is, spiritual, lofty, worth emulating) and a body (material, with baser instincts that ought to be controlled). Likewise, one speaks of the material and the spiritual, or the natural and the supernatural. In recent times there has been a desire to differentiate emphatically in this light, salvation from the promotion of the human. (Or liberation in Christ from temporal liberation). The future awaiting people is likewise seen as distinct and opposed to the present: as in heaven and earth; the here and the beyond. In reality, none of these opposite pairs find basis in the message of the Gospel. The words of Jesus and his attitude totally discard these false divisions by proclaiming that all people are equal – all are holy – that God fills in the universe He himself created, and that eternal life begins the moment people opt to defend the life of others.
The miracle that Jesus performs on the crippled man, Floro, is a sign that God does not consider any differences of this type. God simultaneously frees the paralytic of his sickness and from the burden of his weakness, his sins. For God – according to Jesus’ signs – the body and soul go hand in hand. God is interested in the complete person. None of these dualisms matter anymore in the gospel. Nor do the dualisms in action matter. In our struggle to transform our history from misery and injustice to that which is authentically humane, we construct the history of our salvation, the Reign of God. In other words, we are beginning our heaven here on earth now. And that is why we find God in people.
God knows the individual history of each man and woman. Therefore, he knows the ulterior motives of our actions and like a just judge, he is aware of the extenuating circumstances whenever we “sin.” The extreme need – and such is the case of Floro who had so many mouths to feed – is a great extenuating circumstance of our human debility. When confronted by Jesus, the paralytic “sees” his complete life and accepts it as is, and considering his limitations, he confesses this life in all sincerity. God, through Jesus, likewise sees and accepts it. He forgives him, and cleanses him of all his faults and even elevates him. Such accounting is made clear: Jesus is the messenger of God’s unconditional forgiveness and brings joy to peoples tormented heart.
We must not “read” Jesus’ miracles as proofs of his might nor majesty. What is majestic isolates, and what is powerful makes us tremble; it scares us. If the miracles by Jesus had this effect, everything would have been contradictory to the plan of God, who wanted to be near us through Jesus. Each of these signs brought the poor and the humble of Jesus’ town closer to him. They saw themselves in him who was a friend they could love and a leader they could follow. Those who stayed away from him, who definitely did not admire him, were those who believed that God was with them through their prayers and laws. Therefore, there was no need to support a poor peasant who was capable of discoursing on religious matters and enkindling the hope of a people terribly overcome by too much suffering.
(Mt 9:1-8; Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26)