SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Healthy the Person Sinless in Body and Spirit, Free to Wander the Earth at Will
First Reading (Is 43:18-19,21-22,24-25):
God forgives our sins
“Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven. I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out. ( Mk 2:3-12)
Today's Gospel story brings to our attention the following points:
Capernaum was a bustling city and the place where Jesus and his disciples often gathered – the Bible even calls it “his city”. Jesus preached in the synagogue there, exorcised devils there, and there cured Peter’s mother-in-law and also “many who were sick with various diseases.” So the crowd knew “when he returned to Capernaum” and flocked to listen to his preaching and perhaps see him perform a miracle. So the paralyzed man came too, brought by his friends. And “when Jesus saw their faith” he performed the miracle to assure that the paralyzed man would walk again.
We don't know about the paralyzed man's faith in Jesus, but we are sure of this, without the help of those four friends who did not mind the inconvenience – going up to the roof, finding a way to ‘dig through it;’ letting down the crippled man into the room -- Jesus probably would not have performed this miracle, and the paralytic would not have had an opportunity to regain his health.
We may pray for many graces and hope miracles will happen. We may sometimes forget that while we can pray for God's favour (gift), we also can become ‘gift’ for others. We ourselves can be the cause for miracles to appear. In other words, we also can be ‘facilitators of God's favour’ and not just ‘receivers of God’s gifts.’
Many of us may have heard the story about “The friendship between Kwun and Poa. Kwun Chung was prime minister to Woon Kung, leader of the leaders of tehe allied states. He planned to restore the country. He was at the height of his career. Once when Kwun Chung was feeling particularly pleased with himself, he suddenly thought of his good friend, Poa Suk Nga. He said something that would be remembered for centuries after: “My parents gave me birth. But only Poa can understand me.” (1) What he meant was that although his parents had raised him, the one who really understood him, assisted and encouraged him, and helped him build up a new life and career, was his friend, Poa Suk Nga.
Poa was a gift to Kwun – a priceless gift from heaven. Without his parents Kwun would not have had physical life. But without Poa, Kwun would not have had a political or military life, or his career. Like the Gospel passage today, without his four friends the paralyzed man perhaps would not have recovered.
We need friends. Among friends we are ‘gifts’ of God' to each other. When we treasure friendship in this way, a Chinese saying calls it “cherishing relationships.” (2)
The moment for the miracle had come. Jesus said “your sins have been forgiven.” Nearby there were some learned scribes who knew the Scriptures well. They also were zealous to protect the purity of the Holy Word. They immediately reacted, thinking, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” ( Mk 2:7 )
Body and heart, spirit and flesh, are linked together and are interdependent. Psychological health influences physical well-being, one's physical condition sometimes mirrors a spiritual state. Mental problems need their own kind of cure, illness of the spirit needs spiritual healing. Jesus, the perfect human being, is savior of all humankind, not only saving our spirits, but our bodies too. He not only cares about the suffering of ordinary mortals, he hates the relentless spread of the power of evil. He wanted to cure the paralytic of his bodily constraints, but he first wanted to remove the constraints on the soul. ‘Your sins have been forgiven and your soul has been healed. You have regained your freedom, and can live a new life. You are free to ‘wander the earth and the heavens at will.’ Today and hereafter you can walk with the Creator and be completely at one with the God who created you and saved you’.
The scribes of the Lord did not recognize the God who had become human for the sake of humankind, so they regarded Jesus' words as ‘blasphemous.’ Jesus then gave a simple proof: ‘which is easier of the two, to say words of forgiveness, or to tell the paralytic in the presence of all to get up and walk?’ Of course the answer is to say the words is easier. This is somewhat like the Chinese saying, “Drawing a ghost is easy; drawing dogs and horses is difficult.” (3) No one has seen a ghost, so whatever you draw, no one can say, ‘it shouldn't be that way.’ But if you cannot draw a dog or horse correctly, people who have seen either, will judge you harshly.
So Jesus said to the paralytic, “stand
up, take your mat and go to your home!” And that is
what he did, he took up his stretcher and went out. There was left behind
a shocked and wide-eyed audience, together praising God with loud acclaim.
“They were all amazed and glorified God,
saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” ( Mk