Today’s gospel discloses something more about Jesus: he is not only a healer of bodies; he is the “Son of Man, “with power to heal the soul.
If a person who knows nothing about Jesus Christ read the gospels of the last four Sundays, he would most probably think that Jesus was a doctor or a faith healer by profession. For the fourth consecutive Sunday now, we read a gospel story about Jesus’ healing activity. First, it was a possessed man in the synagogue of Capernaum; then, it was Simon’s mother-in-law and many others that he cured; last Sunday it was a leper whom Jesus touched and healed; and today, it is a paralytic that he cures. Today’s gospel discloses something more about Jesus: he is not only a healer of bodies; he is the “SON of Man,” with power to heal the soul.
The Church does not tire telling us that healing was the most important part of Jesus’ ministry, by which he not only showed his love and compassion, but also revealed that God’s kingdom had come and that Satan’s kingdom was on the way out: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”
At first, today’s gospel story elicits a smile of amusement. Try to visualize the scene: Four men carry a paralyzed man on a stretcher. Unable to get near Jesus due to the crowd, but determined to do so, they dismantle the roof and lower the stretcher right in front of Jesus. But then, amusement gives way to admiration for the paralytic and his four friends. We admire, above all, their faith. In fact, that’s the first thing Jesus saw-not the hole on the roof: “When Jesus saw their faith … “ They were fully convinced that Jesus could, and would, do something about their plight, that he would not let them down. And he did not.
Then comes the big surprise. After all the trouble they went through to bring the paralytic right before Jesus, hoping for a cure, Jesus, instead of telling the man, “Take your mat and walk,” he tells him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” We can imagine the expression of surprise and disappointment written on the face of the paralytic and his friends, as if they wanted to say, “Sir, that’s not what we came here for. We want this man to walk again!”
Now, here is a good point for our reflection. Like the paralytic, we very often ask the wrong favors from the Lord: a safe trip, good health, success in business or in exams, and the like–all material concerns. We fail to see our deeper needs, our spiritual paralysis, and our need for spiritual healing. Jesus knows our needs better than we do ourselves. And he offers more than we ask for– complete healing of body and soul.
The Church carries on the healing ministry of Jesus–of both body and soul. Jesus endowed the Church with two sacraments of healing, namely, reconciliation and anointing of the sick. Through the sacrament of reconciliation, the wounds of our soul, inflicted by sin, are cured. Like the paralytic, we hear Jesus telling us, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Through the sacrament of anointing we are strengthened both in body and spirit.
Unfortunately, these two sacraments are now in crisis and are not duly appreciated. As for the sacrament of reconciliation, many Catholics, influenced by fundamentalists or born-again Christians, prefer to confess directly to God, rather than to a priest. Thus they deprive themselves of the great joy of hearing Jesus’ words, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” As for the sacrament of anointing, many Catholics believe that it is meant only for those who are on the brink of death–like a gentle push into eternity; hence they postpone its reception until the sick person slips into unconsciousness, thus rendering the sacrament next to useless.
This coming Wednesday, February 22, the Lenten season will start; it is a time to renew our faith and to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. Hopefully we will come to rediscover and to experience his presence and healing power in these sacraments.
published February 19, 2012 Parish Bulletin