“Thy sins are forgiven”
In Isaiah the liturgical emphasis for today is two main points.
1- God is forgiving the Jews who were in exile in Babylon and
2- That God alone forgives sin through his own power
It is interesting to see how this passage recalls the desert which soon before beginning his Ministry in Capernaum, Jesus, had been tempted in. (see Mark 1:13)
In 2 Corinthians the liturgical point is
- God’s promises are brought into fruition in the person of Jesus who is himself God.
- As God, Jesus has given us His Spirit that we may have access to God in our hearts, which was a messianic promise through the prophets.
Paul is defending himself for having not fulfilled a promise to visit the young community as he had promised. Here Paul is using the “Amen” from the mass and Jesus’s regulation on oaths (making your Yes be your Yes )to drive home the point that Christ is God and that all of Gods promises are made present in Christ and that the Spirit of Christ, in us, is the proof or assurance of this teachings validity. As a side note it is beautiful to see how Paul has Timothy and Silvanus as his two witnesses which is Judaic law when giving a legal testimony.
Mark 2: 1-12
In today’s modern world we understand the nature of certain epileptic conditions and other various illnesses. However in the ancient traditions these diseases were seen as the result of personal sin or even the punishment for sins from a person’s parents. Even now in various religious traditions there is still a common belief that those born with medical conditions have somehow brought on themselves these diseases through past life offences. This is true in the cast systems of the Hindu’s and the karmic teachings of certain Buddhist schools.
As with most of the New Testament literature, we must put our minds into the minds of those first century Christians and read this Gospel how they read it. They would not see any wrong in viewing the paralytic as somehow implicit in his illness. First century Christians would still have had a deep respect for the Judaic understanding of the relationship between the material world and our spiritual world. For the Christian still today, we can never be confused with the unique reality of spiritual matters and carnal matters. Many people today would assume that these two aspects of existence could somehow be separated. For Christians these two planes of existence are never separate and can only live in harmony when aligned with Christ. One needs look no further than our Eucharist to see how spiritual and material matters still reflect one reality.
We turn now to the opening sequence of this Gospel narrative. Christ having spent time in the “deserted places” (Mark 1:45) enters the house. This house is House of the Apostles and in it there is Jesus. In The Catholic Church we are in the house with the Apostles. They have come “from all directions” Mark states. Through the prophets God promised to bring the people of God back from all directions to worship him. Here in this house, The Church, we come from all directions, every continent and every nation to hear our God. And painting a picture for us Mark shows us there is a crowd obstructing access to Him. For myself I read this and wonder about “the crowd”. In Marks Gospel there are all these crowds and gatherings. Many of those present seem to be there and absorbing Christ, however it’s as if Mark uses the crowds to describe these large followings where for the most part people are simply coming to see the spectacle of Jesus. How often we see a large group of people just hanging around listening but not really participating. My reasoning in seeing the crowd in this light is that as Christians if we see someone who is accepting the teachings of Christ and in need of healing would we not make way for that person and move that person front of the communion rail and toward God.
In contrast to this it appears that the friends must excessively labor past the “crowd”, not in harmony with them, to reach Jesus. How often as Sinners are we laying as the paralytic stuck in our own sins? In my own conversion process I know that had it not been for other people laboring in prayer and love I would not have found Christ today. In Hindsight I can honestly say I was a paralytic, my sins had diseased and rotted my soul, even my body, and I was unable to break through the crowds on my own. It was through the efforts of those who loved me and those who saw that I was sick and worth saving that I found my healing. The four men in Gospel come and through what would be a strenuous task eventually “breakthrough” the roof to gain access to Christ. Much could be said about breaking through the roof but that will have to wait for another time. Then the men let down the “paralytic” into The House with the Apostles and Christ.
Christ sees the Faith of the laborers and for their efforts he forgives the paralytic of his Sins. Note that the palsy is not cured. Jesus is teaching us that the most fundamental healing ability of God in His House is the forgiveness of sins. One is left to wonder, had the scribes not questioned the power of humans to offer God’s forgiveness outside of the mosaic sacrifices, would Jesus have healed the paralysis. Today as Christians our sacrifice is Jesus on the Cross so it is a moot point. But to the scribe not having a blood sacrifice and just having a rabbi say sins are forgiven would have been unthinkable. Only God could forgive a person of sin without first receiving a sacrifice. And even then God didn’t forgive too many people in the bible without them offering a sacrifice. Jesus will seek to show mankind that God has done something new and has offered the forgiveness of sins through his Son who in turn will give the authority of forgiving sins to mere men. These are deep and poetic theological points which I can’t even begin to fathom but Christ makes it simple by saying in the coming verses “that the son of man has the authority to forgive sins on earth”. Also I must ask myself “if God offered only spiritual healing and had not offered to heal my body as well would I have been able to accept that”. Many Christian authors and television personalities often say “have more faith and God will heal you”. This is popular in Pentecostal Congregations. The narrative seems to imply otherwise. In my opinion, it seems to say that by healing my relationship with God by forgiving my sins and not requesting a physical healing I would in fact be living more faithfully.
The scribes, having chosen the best seats up front, begin to question in their hearts. This man Jesus has just assumed power that belongs only to God, a Blasphemy punishable by death according to Judaic law. Jesus in the role of teacher now asks the scribes a rhetorical question. Asking a rhetorical question has been a common tool used by Jewish rabbis and Christian catechists throughout the centuries. We can see this in the Baltimore Catechism where a question is asked then immediately followed by an immediate answer. Jesus asks them the age old question “which is harder, forgiving sins or making a paralytic walk?” When I look at this I must ask myself this question. How often in life it seems that making a paralytic walk would be easier than forgiving someone who has hurt me. Christ does not wait for the scribes to answer, he tells the paralytic to get up and walk.” And not only that, he asks him to carry on his back the symbol of the sins he was once condemned for. Unlike the paralytic Christ has put my sins on his back. He has carried them and he has wiped them away. In awe and wonder all those present, including the scribes, glorify God.
And this is the message for us today. Jesus reveals himself as God and through his Spirit we will offer His forgiveness. Also do we have the faith to labor for our friends, to break through the crowds so that sinners may come before Christ? Do we see that Jesus is God and only he, through the mission of His Church, can forgive our sins? Do we see that our physical world can only be made right if our spiritual world is made right by Christ first? Through The Church we defend the unborn, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. Through The Church and Her hospitals and missions we heal the sick and educate the less fortunate. None of these things can be of any importance if our first priority is not to bring people back into relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins which was done by Christ on the cross and made present to us in the Eucharist. It is our God given duty to pronounce to the world that Christ is in the house…