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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Homily. Readings: Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12.

Green Stole and Gospel
Readings: Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12

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 is exercised.

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).

If 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.