Catholic Daily Message for the Feast of Saint Juan Diego (9 Dec 2014)
You might remember that Tom Sawyer’s little school-time sweetheart in the classic by Mark Twain was named Becky Thatcher. Both her family name and that of her hero were taken from human occupations: the sawyer sawed wood in the lumberyard, and the thatcher covered houses with roofs made of straw and dried vegetation of various kinds. In the gospel, we find some un-thatchers at work, or maybe de-thatchers would be a better word. Anyway, those men were terribly anxious for their friend, who couldn’t walk because of some illness or accident, to be brought to Jesus. And since he was so surrounded by a great crowd, they went to the extreme of bringing him, stretcher and all, up onto the thatched roof of the house in which Jesus was teaching. That alone was no small feat. Then they began to remove the tiles which overlay the thatch, and make a hole in the thatch through which they let the immobilized man down in front of Our Lord.
Can you imagine the commotion, and the annoyance of the people whose house it was? When the man is lying at Jesus’s feet, Our Lord says to him, rather surprisingly, “Your sins are forgiven.” That isn’t why they had brought him, but it caught the attention of the Pharisees, who knew their theology well and were forever trying to prove Jesus to be a hoax and a charlatan. Immediately the Pharisees began thinking to themselves: “Who can forgive sin except God, since all sin is an offense against Him? This man is blaspheming!” They were right; no one can forgive sin except God, and if Jesus were not God, he would indeed be blaspheming. So to prove his divinity, and give them the opportunity to come to recognize it, Our Lord says to the lame man, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” And the lame man does just that, leaving the crowds thunderstruck, but the stubborn Pharisees still unbelieving. They couldn’t help but observe the cure. But to draw the obvious conclusion, namely, that this man who could make lame men walk, could also forgive sin, and was therefore possessed of divine power —this they refused to do. As the old Chinese proverb says, “None is so blind as he who will not see.” And when a person has made up his mind that Jesus of Nazareth is NOT divine, then no miracle is going to change his mind—even, as Our Lord says elsewhere in the gospel, if Jesus were to rise from the dead. We are possessed of the Holy Spirit. We know that Jesus DID heal the lame man, that He also forgives sin, and that He is God. That is why this passage from the gospel for us is so delightful and so profound. The prophet Isaiah foretold that “the lame shall leap like a stag” in the Messianic kingdom. And in the responsorial psalm, we read that “justice (which means sinlessness) shall walk before him and salvation along the way of his steps.” Healing the lame man and forgiving his sins, Jesus proves his ability over the evils of the body and the soul as well. That is as true regarding us as it was regarding the man lowered through the roof. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.