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Monday – Second Week – Advent
Readings: Isa 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26.
Reading 1 (Isa 35:1-10):
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
Gospel (Lk 5:17-26):
One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
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 said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”
I. THEME: Sins
Jewish tradition believes there is a relationship between sin and punishment. This relationship can be seen in all the prophetic Books. Since the Israelites disobeyed God and sinned, God used Assyrians and Babylonians as the sticks to whip them. However, God didn’t want to destroy them, but He wanted them to repent and to live. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foresaw glorious scenes when the Israelites would repent, they will be returned to their country, be prosperous and protected by God again. In the Gospel, Jesus is the Messiah whom all prophets foretold. He has power to heal all physical sickness and to forgive all sins.
1/ Reading I: The joy of salvation
1.1/ The differences exist between the two conditions: with God and without Him. Many people who don’t want to give up their sins because they want to enjoy all worldly pleasures; they think life must be bored if they have to live according to God’s teaching. They never have the experience of a truly free person who isn’t addicted to any worldly things; this kind of people enjoys life to its fullness, as expressed in detail by the prophet:
(1) When God leads, a dry desert will be a fertile land: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocuses shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.” Lebanon, Mt. Carmel and Sharon are well-known places for their locations or fertile land: Lebanon for its wood; Mt. Carmel for its high position looking down to the Mediterranean Sea and the Jezreel large and fertile valley all the way to Galilean Sea; and Sharon for its big and beautiful roses.
(2) People have courage and eager to live: A reckless life will lead people to all kind of diseases and desperation; they see no hope in future and have no power to rise up. This is the condition of the Israelites in exile. The prophet Isaiah was sent by God to instill hope in them: “Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.””
(3) All diseases will be healed: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.” These things will be fulfilled in Messiah’s age, but people need to come to him in order to be healed, both physical and spiritual sickness.
1.2/ Only those who are pure and holy can climb up God’s holy mountain: Isaiah talked about the remnant, those who will survive God’s punishment and purification. He emphasized that not all the Israelites on exile will be returned and prosperous, only those who recognized their sins, repented and completely trusted in God will be saved. The ones who intentionally continued their sinful life won’t have a chance to return, as the prophet foretold: “the unclean shall not pass over it, and fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.”
2/ Gospel: Your sins are forgiven.
2.1/ Christ’s power to heal: None could deny this power from Christ, even the scribes and the Pharisees. The special points in today passage are the way people brought the paralyzed to Jesus and Jesus’ dialogue with them about his power to forgive sins.
2.2/ Christ’s power to forgive sins: The dialogue was centered on the question: Did Jesus have the right to forgive sins? To demonstrate that he had both powers to heal sickness and to forgive sins, Jesus used what they believed to lead them to the point that they must believe he was sent by God; and he himself is God.
(1) The first belief: the relationship between sin and punishment. Jewish tradition believes there is a connection between sin and punishment. Diseases can be results of individuals or their parents’ sins, because if “the fathers have eaten sour grapes, the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jer 31:29; Jn 9:2, 34). The Book of Exodus believed God’s angry will be on their fourth generations (Exo 20:5).
(2) The second belief: only God has power to forgive sins. Jesus began the dialogue by saying to the paralyzed, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?”
What they thought is correct, only God can forgive sins (Isa 43:25, 55:7). Whoever gives himself that power is the blasphemer,
(3) Jesus’ arguments: if punishment is taken away, sin is forgiven. According to judicial procedure, the punishment is only given out when the judge condemned the accused. If the judge declared the accused not guilty, he is free from that sin. Applying this procedure in the paralyzer’s case: If the scribes and the Pharisees believed that punishment was a result of sins, they must also accept that if the paralyzed was healed, his sins were forgiven.
Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, `Rise and walk’?” To them, the easier is the first, because none can check the result. To Jesus both are easy, he had both powers to heal and to forgive.
(4) The first result: Jesus has power to heal. Jesus said to them: “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the man who was paralyzed — “I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God.”
(5) The second result: Jesus proved he himself is God by his power to forgive sins. If the scribes and the Pharisees sincerely followed their beliefs and Jesus’ logical argument, they would recognize Jesus is God; because he had both powers to heal and to forgive. But they didn’t recognize what all others did: “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.””
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We can’t welcome God with our sinful souls because God is the most holy (I Jn 1:5).
– We all committed sins; therefore, we need to confess before we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Whoever says he is not sinful; he is a liar and has no truth in him (I Jn 1:8).
– Jesus has power to forgive sins, he gave this power to his disciples and the priests (x/c Mt 16:19, Lk 24:47, Jn 20:23). We only need to spend a short time to make a confession, our sins will be forgiven, and God will come back to us.