The Gospel according to Matthew (9:1-8)
He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.
Opening Prayer: At this point in Jesus’ ministry, it was no secret he was healing many who suffered from a variety of infirmities. Many who wanted to be healed sought him out. But there were many others who were drawn to him for other reasons. Let’s face it, if we knew someone was performing miracles, we would be just a curious as the next person to witness such an event.
However powerful and popular Jesus may have appeared to many he was just as unpopular and a threat to the power of others. Not only was Jesus taking away the attention they had among many, but he was also threatening their grip on control and influence. There were many filters, rules, and practices that created a burden making it difficult to reach God let alone be in His company and grace. Jesus’ approach to relationship with God the Father was very straight forward and direct. Salvation, the Kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus, the Son of God, was in their midst ready to offer those who asked forgiveness and healing.
Jesus gives the paralytic two commands, Courage and Rise. He told him to have courage when he forgave his sins. Why? Let’s ask ourselves that question. Why does it take courage to have our sins forgiven? I know I need courage, after my sins are forgiven, because now I am called to go and sin no more. Without courage we would walk away from forgiveness accepting the eventuality we will sin again. With courage, we, with the grace of God, promise to avoid the near occasion of sin. It is not about whether we will sin again but about the courage to try with all of our heart, mind, and strength to love our God, neighbor, and self.
When he tells the paralytic to rise, he also says pick up his stretcher and go home. Once forgiven, we pick up our mat, which is where our life has been while paralyzed with sin, and go home straight into the arms of our Abba. Do we believe that when we receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation our sin is as far away as east is from the west? Then where else would we be if not in the arms of our Father.
Yes, our journey here on earth continues but there are precious moments when our faith is rewarded with the presence of Jesus. He looks at us intently when we come to him seeking forgiveness and healing. He tells us have courage your sins are forgiven. Then, he tells us rise pick up your mat and go home. It is up to us to take the gift of salvation and become the person God calls us to be.
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, may we receive the gift of your grace and have the courage to ask for and receive your mercy and forgiveness. Then, in the light of your grace rise and continue our pilgrimage home to you. Along the way may we share our gifts with others without counting the cost.
Action for the Day: What in our life is keeping us paralyzed and unwilling to receive the forgiveness of God? It may be right in front of us or require a deep dive. Jesus wants to forgive us. Ask him, then rise and help someone else do the same.