Fear can be paralyzing, especially in the face of something or someone we do not know. Not infrequently, when I was ministering at a hospital in Boston that cared for many people who were mentally ill, I would have to accompany visitors through the hospital because they were too intimidated by mental illness to walk alone. No matter how I tried to assure them that they would be safe, they had heard too much about the mentally ill to trust those who looked so intense and guarded.
When today's gospel speaks of paralytic, I cringed. Many at the time of Jesus would have avoided this person all costs, more concerned with their own cleanliness than with the paralytic's struggles to live a faith filled life. In the United States these days there are a host of communal fears. Many distrust Muslims, immigrants and people from countries and cultures that seem to threaten us, and this fear is sometimes fanned by political rhetoric rooted in ignorance and anxiety about the nature of diversity. Everyone who looks different is suspect. Jesus' response to all of this is plain.
"Do not be afraid," he cautions us. Get to know those who differ from you. When trust grows, we can build the kingdom of God together.
Today, on the 4th of July, stretch beyond the platitudes of national pride and meet someone from a different culture or country.
Have your cultural fears gotten in the way of your freedom?