43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12
THEME OF THE READINGS
While in last Sundayīs liturgy Jesus confronts a physical
image of sin (leprosy), today liberation from sin itself is
an explicit and central focus of the Readings.
All Godīs promises of salvation and forgiveness of sin have
been fulfilled in Christ: Godīs "Yes". It is something new
when Jesus does what only God can do: forgive sins.
The paralysis of sin. Again a physical condition
-paralysis- is a stand-in for sin, but it is also
clearly distinguished from it. It is clear that for Jesus
the real evil one should be concerned about is the
spiritual paralysis of sin which leaves us prostrated and incapable
by ourselves of taking a step towards God, much less
of coming into his presence. Strictly speaking, this would be
the case with serious sin freely and knowingly accepted (mortal
sin), though even slighter failings share in the dynamics of
sin which tends to īreproduce… and reinforce itself" so that
it is difficult to break out of.
Only God can
forgive sin. The basic thrust of the gospelīs message
here is not that, since Jesus is God, he can
forgive sin, but rather that, since he forgives sin –
and makes a paralytic walk - he is God himself.
The scribes are correct in reserving forgiveness of sins to
God, but they are only the first in a long
line of people who have been unable to "swallow" the
incarnation of the Son of God. The scandal of the
new covenant God has made with us is that he
has become human; and that moreover he has never revoked
this decision, so that he still works through the humanity
of Jesus, present in his body which is the Church.
Grateful wonder at the Lordīs merciful love. The "authority
on earth to forgive sins" that Jesus claims is an
essential part of the "something new" that God is doing
(First Reading). In three ways. First, the power to forgive
sins is now "on earth", no longer a hidden power
exercised by God in the heavens. Second, it is a
power that belongs to "the Son of Man", this man
Jesus, who shows the reality of his authority by the
miraculous cure of the paralytic. The initial amazement or scandal
experienced by the bystanders quickly gave way to praise that
God "should have given such power to men". And here
is the third novelty: rather than "to man", Mark reports
that it is seen as given "to men" -to us,
for whom and through whom the Saviorīs power to forgive
Catechesis: The Gospel is the revelation in
Jesus Christ of Godīs mercy to sinners (CCC 1846-1848). "By Christīs will, the Church possesses the power
to forgive the sins of the baptized and exercises it
through bishops and priests normally in the sacrament of Penance"
(CCC 986). If a complete catechesis on the Sacrament is
too extensive, one might explain the dogmatic foundations of the
Churchīs practice (CCC 976, 980-983; 1425-1426; 1440-1449).
we appreciate the magnitude of the gift of divine life
God of has given us, we will realize that "sin
is excluded for anyone who has īput on Christ.ī But
the apostle John also says: īIf we say we have
no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not
in usī" (1John 1:8; CCC 1425). Therefore none of us
can do without the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Todayīs
Psalm makes all of us say, "Lord, heal my soul,
for I have sinned against you". So that all of
us can hear, "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace."
It is true that with the grace of God it
is possible to avoid grave sin; nevertheless, since even our
everyday failings diminish love and are subject to the sclerotic,
paralyzing effect of all sin, a smart Christian will seek
the grace of the sacrament frequently. Not exclusively because he
or she has sinned; but so he or she will
not sin. Confession is not a "car wash for the
soul"; it is the sacrament of fight against sin in
all its forms, the most powerful instrument we have for
that purpose. And a loving encounter with Christ himself, present
in the priest.
The latter – the third element of
Godīs "new ways" – remains for some a stumbling block.
Sadly, there are still Christians who live in the Old
Testament and are scandalized by the appearance of Godīs mercy
wrapped in human form. After twenty centuries of Christian teaching,
we donīt contest the incarnation of the Son of God
in Jesus. But, in practice, we contest his continuing incarnation
in his Church and in his ministers. By overcoming, with
a profound act of faith, whatever difficulties or simple negligence
affects our appreciation and practice of this extraordinary gift of
Godīs mercy, we give a resounding "yes" to Christ who
is Godīs "yes" to us.
Prayer for sinners. It is
the faith of the manīs friends that bring him to
Jesus and moves Jesus to say, "Your sins are forgiven",
and it is the faith of the Church which prays
daily for the forgiveness of sinners –all of us, her
children- that brings us to him when of ourselves we
are unable. We are the beneficiaries of that prayer; but
because we are the Church we are also the ones
who must pray every day in her name for those
who need to be carried before the Lord.