from The American Bible Society:
February 19, 2012
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
This is a reminder to continue in your daily Lectio Divina Scripture reading. We’ve included the content again for you, to make it easier for you to continue to engage with God’s Word.
YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN … GET UP!
Mark 2:1-12 (Good News Translation)1 A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum, and the news spread that he was at home. 2 So many people came together that there was no room left, not even out in front of the door. Jesus was preaching the message to them 3 when four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man to Jesus. 4 Because of the crowd, however, they could not get the man to him. So they made a hole in the roof right above the place where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they let the man down, lying on his mat. 5 Seeing how much faith they had, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”6 Some teachers of the Law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “How does he dare talk like this? This is blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!” 8At once Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Why do you think such things? 9 Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk”? 10 I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. ” So he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I tell you, get up, pick up your mat, and go home!” 12 While they all watched, the man got up, picked up his mat, and hurried away. They were all completely amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
As usual, the context is essential to understand the theological and spiritual message in today’s readings. In last week’s Gospel, Mark tried to convey a deep message about the real role played by Jesus. He was not a simple street preacher providing his audience with kind words and sound advice, but a man of God, capable of transmitting his healing power to the sick: the leper who turned to him for help was restored to health and to legal (and moral) cleanness. Nor was Jesus the kind of “magician” or “alien visitor” who performs wondrous deeds, but keeps apart from the real problems of people. By touching the leper, Jesus shared his suffering and his uncleanness. In fact, he was fulfilling the promises we heard in the Psalm, “The Lord will help them when they are sick and will restore them to health,” or in the reading from Isaiah, “I am the God who forgives your sins.” The new creation “is happening already—you can see it now!” That double dimension comes to a summit in today’s Gospel, and in the most provocative way. Once again, some people bring to the Lord a sick person (a paralyzed man), so that his saving power may cure him. Jesus’ immediate reaction is surprising: not a gesture of his hand, not a comforting word or a promise of healing, but a solemn statement, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” As anyone would expect, the reaction of the religious “experts,” the teachers of the Law, is scandal: “How does he dare…?” In fact, Jesus is performing a divine action, similar to the healing of the leper. Only God can cure leprosy, only God can forgive sins. But Jesus does not stop with a mere dictum, grave as it may seem. His word is powerful, “will not fail to do what I [God, Jesus] plan for it,” just as Isaiah (55:11) had said. That is why he can ratify the truth of his forgiving words by means of his command: “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home!” In fact God’s “Yes,” Jesus’ “Yes,” is a “Yes” to freedom: the paralytic is now free from the physical bondage which prevented him from walking freely, but also free from the moral ties of sin. He has “risen” to a new life of grace. He can now walk with dignity in the presence of God. There is a final detail in the story. Really, faith can open a way when all the doors are shut. In spite of the difficulties and hindrances to come to Jesus, the sheer tenacity of those who carried the paralytic enabled them to overcome the difficulties and bring him into Jesus’ presence … and to health and salvation.
We must admit that it is extremely difficult to maintain the eagerness and joy of our first encounter with Jesus. Just like Israel, we may feel “tired of him,” allow our religious life to become a boring routine, fall into the tedious repetition of rites. Do you have those feelings? If so, how do you think you can overcome them and start following Christ anew? Have you thought of a retreat or some other way of “setting aside” a period of time for reflection and spiritual renewal? In a couple of days we will celebrate Ash Wednesday. Could that date be a good opportunity to make some plans?
Pray for those who experience feelings of despair, for whom there is no future ahead but the burden of past mistakes or disappointments, that they may experience the presence of God as a calling for a hopeful future. Thank God for your ability to follow Jesus, even if you falter and stumble as you walk behind him.
As in the traditional definition of “sacrament” (a visible sign of God’s grace acting in the life of believers), Jesus’ healing of the paralytic involves the forgiveness of sins and the gesture of picking up the mat and walking. Around us, no doubt, someone is suffering from some kind of spiritual or physical paralysis. Perhaps, it is the actual impossibility to move freely; maybe, the inner, invisible spiritual paralysis of sadness, depression, disillusionment. In any case, try to be a minister of the humble “sacrament” of sharing your own hope with them through, perhaps, a walk with an elderly person or a spiritual stroll with a friend confined by isolation or grief. I am sure we can always help others carry their mats.
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón Director of Inter-Religious Affairs Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain