Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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 7TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 22, 2009 Year: B
Is. 43:18-19, 20-22, 24-25; 2 Cor. 1:18-22; Mk. 2:1-12
The forgiveness of sins

First Reading...
"The Lord said: 'Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.'

'I will give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.'

'Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Isreal! You have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.

"I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember you sins." [Is. 43:18-9, 20b-2, 24b-5]

Second Reading...
"As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been "Yes and No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not "Yes and No"; but in him it always "Yes."

For in him every one of God's promises is a "Yes." For this reason it is through him that we say the "Amen," to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment." [2 Cor. 1:18-22]

Gospel Reading...
"When Jesus returned to Capernaum, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.

Then some people came, bringing to Jesus a paralysed 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 paralysed man lay.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.' Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 'Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, 'Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralysed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk?' But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins' - he said to the man who was paralysed - '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 before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"[Mk. 2:1-12]

When I visited a family recently, I met the father of a young man who is an alcoholic. I asked the father about his son’s present condition. He replied me saying that he feels compassion for him. He loves him immensely and even makes great sacrifices to go with him to rehabilitation centre and spend time with him. During my conversation he began shedding tears of real agony. But at the end he said that he is ready to die for his son. He is ready to go to any extent to see his son leave alcohol. Sense of forgiveness and challenge to get his son out of danger of alcohol is the sole aim of the father. 

Mary Augustine of our parish has been suffering due to her two sons’ kidney troubles that have reduced her life to nothing. She runs pillar to post to collect money for the treatment of her two sons. She has never given up her attempt to help her sons since 7 years. She herself is sick with tuberculosis and works in homes and earns for her and her sons living and treatment. What a pitiable condition! We tried to get her some support through contributions from our own parish, but it seems that it is a pitiable, pathetic continuing story. The determined mother never gives up her attempts to help her sons. 

When we look at such cases our heart melts and we find it difficult to digest such sufferings of humanity. 

The Gospel passage today revolves around the healing of the paralytic man. There is a conflict and the end is the healing. 

Cause of the conflict:
                        Forgiveness of sins
                        To eat with sinners
                        The practice of fasting
                        Observance of Saturday
                        To cure on Saturday

  • The solidarity of the friends obtains for the paralytic the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is returning to Capernaum. Many people gather before the door of the house. He accepts everybody and begins to teach them. To teach, to speak of God, was what Jesus did the most. A paralytic, carried by four persons, arrived. Jesus is their only hope. They do not doubt to go up and make an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. It must have been a poor house, the roof, mud covered with leaves. They lowered the stretcher with the man, before Jesus. Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralytic: seeing their faith, says to the paralytic: your sins are forgiven you. At that time people thought that physical defects (paralytic) were a punishment from God for any sin that had been committed. The Doctors of the Law taught that the person remained impure and therefore, incapable of getting close to God. For this reason, the sick, the poor, the paralytics, felt that they were rejected by God! But Jesus did not think this way. Such a great faith, was an evident sign of the fact that the paralytic was accepted by God. And for this reason, he declares: “Your sins are forgiven you!” With this affirmation Jesus denies that the paralysis was a punishment due to the sin of the man.

  • Jesus is accused of blasphemy by those who held power. The affirmation of Jesus was contrary to the catechism of the time. It was not in accordance with the idea that they had of God. And because of this they react against and accuse Jesus: he blasphemes! According to them only God could forgive sins. And only the priest could declare someone forgiven and purified. How could it be that Jesus, a man without studies, a lay person, a simple carpenter, could declare persons forgiven and purified of their sins? And there was also another reason which pushed them to criticize Jesus. They had thought: “If it is true what Jesus says, we will lose our power! We will lose our source of income”.

  • By curing, Jesus shows that he also has the power to forgive sins. Jesus perceives the criticism. This is why he asks: “Which of these is easier to say to the paralytic: Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk!? It is easier to say: “Your sins are forgiven you”. Because nobody can verify if truly the sins have been forgiven or not. But if I tell him: “Get up and walk!”, there, all can see if I have or not the power to heal. And in order to show that he had the power to forgive sins, in the name of God, Jesus says to the paralytic: Get up, take up your stretcher and go off home! He cures the man! And thus, through a miracle he taught that the paralysis of the man was not a punishment from God, and he showed that the faith of the poor is a proof that God accepts them in his love.

  • The message of the miracle and the reaction of people. The paralytic gets up, he takes his stretcher, and begins to walk, and all say: “We have never seen anything like this!” This miracle reveals three very important things: a) The sicknesses of persons are not a punishment for sins. b) Jesus opens a new way to reach God. What the system called impurity was no more an obstacle for persons to get close to God. c) The face of God revealed through the attitude of Jesus was different from the severe face of God revealed by the attitude of the Doctors.

  • This reminds us of what a drug addict said once: “I grew up in the Catholic religion. I abandoned it. My parents were good practicing Catholics and wanted us, their children to be like them. People were obliged always to go to Church, every Sunday and every feast day. And when one did not go, they would say: “God will punish you”. I went because this was imposed upon me, and when I became an adult, I no longer went to Mass. I did not like the God of my parents. I could not understand that God, the Creator of the world, could extend over me, a small child, threatening me with the punishment of hell. I liked much more the God of my uncle who never went to Church, but who every day, and I repeat, every day, bought twice as much bread than what he ate, in order to give to the poor!”.

    Summarizing today's readings, they affirm to us that we received our forgiveness of sins by faith in Christ. We are called to believe in the fulfillment of the promises of the Heavenly Father that when we receive absolution from the priest during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, truly, God no longer remembers our sins. Through our faith, accompanied by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God reinstates the righteousness that we previously enjoyed through the Sacrament of Baptism so that we may partake in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to receive our inheritance as children of God, our salvation in preparation for the final instalment that is to come at the resurrection of our bodies.

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