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Word Magazine March 2001 Page 23
ROWING TOGETHER AND
By Very Rev. Stephen Rogers
Have you ever gone canoeing with another person? One thing you learn very quickly when trying to navigate a vessel over the water by paddling is that your paddling had better be in rhythm and harmony with the others in the boat with you. If you are not paddling together, it is impossible to make it to your destination. With paddlers paddling in harmony, the vessel traverses a straight line to its destination. If each paddler is doing his own thing, however, the canoe weaves back and forth and even travels in circles.
The image of a vessel traversing the seas is one that has been used from the very beginning as an analogy to the Church. The Church is that holy vessel that provides us safe transport from this fallen world to the Kingdom of heaven. Just as in a canoe, if the people of God are “rowing” in harmony, the passage is less difficult and the storms encountered along the way are more easily overcome. If there is disharmony and each rower is deciding for himself when and how to paddle, it is a sure thing that the Church might seem to be going nowhere or, even worse, drifting farther and farther away from its destination. By our working together, much can be accomplished.
On the second Sunday of Lent (March 11 this year), we hear in the Gospel of St. Mark the account of Jesus healing a paralytic. “Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’,” (Mark 2:3-5).
Notice whose faith Jesus noticed. It was the faith of those who lowered the paralytic. By working together in harmony and faith, these men overcame all obstacles and brought their friend into the saving presence of Jesus. Without those four men, each taking a corner and carefully working together to lower the man, he would not have been healed. In his own weakness, the paralytic could never have overcome the obstacles standing in his way. With the faith and help of others, he was healed.
This gospel points us to one of the great truths about the Church —this ship that is carrying us from earth to heaven, from sickness to health. That truth is that God does not wish us to be alone. In this time of the Lenten Fast, there is a deeply personal aspect to our journey. We fast, we pray, we draw closer to God in repentance. Each of these acts is deeply personal. But even in our most personal struggles and acts of devotion, we are not alone. We fast together, we pray together. It is a great comfort for me in my struggles to know others are striving with me. Am I struggling in my fasting? Others are struggling with me and inspire me to fight the good fight. Am I too weak in faith to pray? I am moved to pray when I know others are praying as well. The faith of others makes me well. The effort of others makes me stronger. And though I am a sinner, perhaps my struggles strengthen another to continue his or her Lenten journey.
Together, we will cross the stormy seas and make it to our destination. Struggling together we will arrive to behold the glory and joy of the empty tomb and resurrected Savior. During this journey of Great Lent, let us determine to travel together. Let us lift up one another even as the four men in the gospel reading lifted up the one who was unable to lift himself. If we neglect the journey, if we do not “row” in harmony with our brothers and sisters, then we hinder the journey of everyone in the boat.