Posted by: fvbcdm | January 16, 2015

Feast of Saint Marcellus (16 Jan 2015)

This Friday, we have the interesting story of the four men who went up onto the roof of a house, made a hole in the roof, and then let down their paralyzed friend on a mat, at the feet of Jesus. In those days, the roofs of Palestinian houses were sometimes made of simple thatch with a thin covering of tiles on top, so that making a hole in a roof was nowhere near as complicated or as radical as it would be now. However, it certainly shows us how very much the paralyzed man wanted to meet Our Lord, and how dedicated his friends were to him.

The interesting thing about the story, though, is that when they have lowered him and he is lying at Jesus’s feet, Our Lord says to him “Your sins are forgiven.” Is that what the man really wanted? We are not told the motive for his great desire to meet Christ. Normally, we would think that what he ardently wanted was to walk again. In any case, Jesus first assures him that his sins have been forgiven. That upsets some of the religious leaders present, because they know that only God can forgive sin, since sin is an offense against God. Jesus reads their thoughts, and for the only time that I can think of in the gospel, he points out that he is about to work a miracle so that those present can know that he has powers over sins as he does over physical forces like the human body and its ability to walk. So he says, “Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins or forgiven,’ or to say ‘rise; pick up your mat and walk’? But THAT YOU MAY KNOW THAT THE SON OF MAN HAS AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS ON EARTH…,” he then says to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

Only God can forgive sins. Only divine power can work miracles. Thus Jesus is here claiming to be God, or at least to be acting as an agent of God. And he is proving his claim by working wonders.

Our Lord did not come into this world to be a healer of the sick, although he healed many of them to call attention to his divine power. He also raised at least three persons that we know of from the dead, but neither was that his principal motive in coming into this world. He came to reconcile men with God, to be the Savior, the Redeemer, the Christ, the forgiver of sins.

You and I will probably have our share of sicknesses during this life, and we are surely going to die, unless the end of time comes before our death. That is not very likely. In any case, when we approach Jesus to ask for temporal favors, for example for good health, or a promotion at work, or a husband or wife, or things like that, we must always remember that we are in the hands of God who is primarily concerned with our eternal well-being. He will give us what he sees us to need for that ultimate goal. When Saint Paul prayed that the suffering he was undergoing be removed from him, he was told no. “My grace is sufficient for you,” Our Lord told him. The suffering was not removed. So must we also pray, asking humbly for what we think to be in our best interest, but always adding, as did Our Lord on the night before he died, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.

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