Thursday July 5 – Gospel
There is much to learn from this Matthean version of the miracle of the crippled man whose sins are forgiven by Christ. But I would like to focus mainly on the forgiveness of sins and what it implies for the Christian vision of life.
It is surprising, if we think about it just a bit, that Jesus suddenly chooses to forgive the poor man’s sins, when it seems most likely that the bearers, if not the man himself, were hoping for a miracle. And indeed they would get their wish, but not until Jesus took care of first things first. Jesus reads the heart of the man, and he knows that this man has some serious sins to be forgiven, and that the poor man must want them forgiven. For Jesus would surely not make this scene – He knew that it was going to elicit hostility from his enemies and he would not want to embarrass the man this way – if we were simply dealing with minor offenses. Moreover, Jesus must have known that the man desired forgiveness, for God never “forces” his forgiveness on us – we have to desire it, ask for it. Jesus knew that this desire was in the man’s heart, even if the man may well have been desiring, mainly, and understandably, a miraculous cure from the Lord.
But Jesus is desiring, mainly, and understandably, to heal this man’s soul, to restore his spiritual well being, for that is his mission. So he puts first things first, the greater gift first, and only consequent upon his being condemned for blasphemy does he heal the man’s body. What a lesson there is in this for us.
What this all should make clear is the absolute primacy of the spiritual over the material or physical well being of man. Had Jesus first cured the body of this man and then forgiven his sins, it would have made that primacy of the spiritual difficult to see; indeed one might even be tempted to think that opposite, since He would be giving the physical cure first and the spiritual cure second.
What a tremendous gift is this gift of divine mercy in the forgiveness of sins! Even the forgiveness of venial sins, but especially the forgiveness of mortal sins! We can imagine how joy filled the man was when he carried off his stretcher and went home. Do we experience the same joy when we walk out of confession and return home? Do we realize the greatness of the thing that has just happened to us? We need to ponder this and rediscover the joy of our youth.
Categories: Weekday reflections