The Gospel according to Matthew (9:1-8)
After entering a boat, Jesus 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 men.
Something struck me as I read this Gospel passage for the umpteenth time. Didn’t the friends of the paralytic man bring him in hopes that Jesus would cure him? Were they surprised or confused when in their initial encounter Jesus says, “your sins are forgiven”? It’s obvious that some present were immediately scandalized by this statement. By this time Jesus had healed many and had performed miracles demonstrating his authority over the temporal world. And he did eventually give the paralytic the gift of physical healing. But the first gift was much more significant.
Although a physical healing of any kind brings great joy and relief to the afflicted and their loved ones forgiveness of our sins brings us salvation. Luke’s Gospel contains the Canticle of Zechariah, (1:67-79) which is a prayer included the Morning Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Every morning these beautiful words are spoken aloud or in the quiet of the hearts of many. Today verse 77 has particular significance because in it we are reminded of two things. First, salvation comes through the forgiveness of sins. And second, we are called to make people aware of this reality.
Time and time again Jesus says that he did not come to provide temporary relief as and end but as part of a means to draw our attention to our eternal lives. In Mark 8:36 we find “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life.” Who doesn’t want a pain free life? And when suffering comes don’t we want it to end? There is nothing wrong with those feelings. Our time here is numbered but is a drop in the bucket when we consider eternity. A famous quote says, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience not humans having a spiritual experience.
When we focus too much on our human experience we have a tendency to lose sight of our divine nature. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are part of the Body of Christ. When our time on earth comes to an end we will transition to another experience of our existence. Forgiveness is the means to our salvation. Let’s do our part to make sure the world knows this.
Action of the Day:
We evangelize every day by how we live our lives. Today, let’s be specific about how we make the mercy and love of God present. Salvation is a reality when relationships are reconciled through the forgiveness of sins. Either seek this gift and/or encourage someone to do likewise. Then we can all take one step closer to salvation.