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Seventh Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Thus says the LORD:
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
The people I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.
Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob,
for you grew weary of me, O Israel.
You burdened me with your sins,
and wearied me with your crimes.
It is I, I, who wipe out,
for my own sake, your offenses;
your sins I remember no more.
Brothers and sisters:
As God is faithful,
our word to you is not “yes” and “no.”
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ,
who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me,
was not “yes” and “no, ” but “yes” has been in him.
For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him;
therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.
But the one who gives us security with you in Christ
and who anointed us is God;
he has also put his seal upon us
and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind
what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?’
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”
-he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
I. THEME: God forgives people’s sins.
Sins prevent people to come to God who is the Most Holy One. People can’t do anything to wipe out their sins. If God doesn’t help, people will die in their sins. In the Old Testament, God prescribed offerings to forgive unintentional sins; but animal blood couldn’t forgive intentional sins. The blood of animals is the image of a much precious blood which has power to forgive all sins. In the New Testament, God gave His Only Son to incarnate and to take away human sins. If Jesus has power to take away sins, he can also forgive sins. Moreover, he also give his disciples and priests this power so they can forgive people’s sins in his name.
Today readings concentrate on God’s power to forgive. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foresaw the Messiah’s power to forgive sins which God will send him to men. Because of him, God will completely wipe out people’s sins and no longer remember any of their iniquities. In the second reading, St. Paul confirmed that all what God promised to human beings, He shall do them. Imitating God’s exemplar, St. Paul and his disciples were also faithful to keep their promises: if they said “yes,” they will accomplish it. In the Gospel, when the scribes accused Jesus of blasphemy, he proved to them that if he had power to heal the paralytic, he also had power to forgive his sins; because according to them, sin is the cause of his paralysis.
1/ Reading I: “I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
The prophet Isaiah foresaw the day in which God shall forgive all human sins, by his writing: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing 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. The people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
The new thing, which God is about to do, is to give people His Only Son to redeem them. When Christ incarnated, the progress of forgiving sins began. Christ’s blood was poured out to wipe away people’s sins and to reconcile them to God (x/c Lk 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24-26). In the next passage, Isaiah wanted to contrast between God’s mercy and human ingratitude.
(1) God’s mercy and compassion: God forgives because He loves people (Jn 3:16). He has mercy because He is the Father. Due to His title “Father,” He loves His children though they offensed Him. God declared through Isaiah: “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
(2) Human ingratitude: People can do nothing to receive forgiveness. Moreover, they also continue to offense God: “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities.”
Human beings should appreciate all God does for them and praise Him; but they totally acted in opposition. They betrayed Him, didn’t remember Him, and to the point as in today passage, “they have been weary of God.” This kind of attitude still happens today, it is not only in thought, but in statement such as: “I killed God!… God is dead!” (F. Nietzsche). “Religion is the opium of the people” (K. Marx). There is a movement to demand for a right to put a slogan in public: “There is no God.” The prophet Isaiah has foretold this worst attitude of human beings: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand”” (Isa 1:2-3).
2/ Reading II: Whatever God promises shall happen.
2.1/ God is faithful: St. Paul confirmed that God is faithful, He did what He promised because He couldn’t do otherwise: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.” All what God promised to people was fulfilled in Christ. For examples: His promise to give Abraham a numerous descendants as stars in heaven and as sand on the seashore; His promise to wipe out people’s sins as in the first reading of the prophet Isaiah; His promise to give people eternal life, etc.
2.2/ We must imitate God to keep what we promised: Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy wanted to imitate God: “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 preached among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.”
Christ himself taught his disciples, “Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Mt 5:37). People are easily violated what they vowed to God and others. For examples: When people committed sins, they broke the Sinai covenant; when people divorced, they broke the covenant of marriage; when people gave up their religious life, they violated their vows with God on the day of their profession. The same thing happened in society, too many contracts, agreements, conventions were nullified by human violation.
St. Paul emphasized that the reason why we can imitated God is because He gives us the Holy Spirit: “But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; He has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The Holy Spirit is the truth, he helps us to recognize the truth and gives us strength so that we can speak, live, and be a witness for the truth.
3/ Gospel: Jesus is God since he could perform what God alone can do.
3.1/ Jesus had power to heal all sickness: Even in Israel today, one can differentiate between a Jewish and a Palestinian house: the roof of a Jewish house isn’t slanted to the two sides as a Palestinian house, but is flatted as a square or a rectangular so people can use as a place to catch some wind. Therefore, a removal of a flatted roof is simple and causes little damage.
The paralytic couldn’t come to God by himself, he must be carried by four people to meet Jesus. Similar to our journey of faith, sometimes we can’t come to God by ourselves, but need people from our Church, parish, family and friends to help us to come to Him. There are many ways to express our faith; and God, who understands all things, is happy when He sees people’s faith. When Jesus saw the way of expression of faith from the paralytic and four people, he said to the paralytic: “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
3.2/ Jesus had power to forgive: To understand Jesus’ arguments with the scribes, we need to understand Jewish beliefs about sin and punishment.
(1) Sin and punishment: According to the Jewish tradition, punishments are the results of sins, either of the individual or the parents (Job 4:7, Jn 9:2). The Rabbi believed: “No one can be healed until all of his sins are forgiven.”
(2) Jesus’ argument: When I took away the punishment through healing, I forgave his sin, the cause of the punishment.
(3) The scribes’ argument: Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” What was also startled them is that Jesus forgave sins so easily, when the sinner didn’t confess his sins and offer sin offerings yet!
(4) Jesus used the scribes’ argument and his healing to prove to them that he is God: Mark reported that “And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk’?”
Of course, the easier thing to do is to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because no one can verify that except God. The more difficult is to say, “Rise, take up your pallet and walk,” because everyone can verify if the speaker has power or not.
Jesus continued: “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!””
3.3/ The power to forgive is bestowed on the Church:
(1) In the Old Testament, it is correct to say as the scribes: “Only God can forgive sins.” He prescribed for people what they need to do with their sacrifices to obtain His forgiveness.
(2) As the prophet Isaiah announced in the first reading about God shall perform a new thing is to send His Messiah to take away human sins, Jesus declared to the scribes: “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” The power of forgiveness comes from heaven.
(3) Not only that, Jesus also give the power of absolution to his disciples and their successors: “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18). The power to forgive remains in the Church through the sacrament of Reconciliation. The priests can forgive our sins in Christ’s name.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Sin is the reality in our life. The results of sins are many: to separate people from God; to cause damages for the individual and others; and to lead sinners to death.
– We can do nothing to compensate for our sins. Only God can forgive our sins and reconciliate our relationship with Him.
– To achieve this, God gave us His Only Son to take away our sins by his blood which has been poured out on the cross.
– This Son has power to forgive and he also gives this power to his disciples through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Every time we committed sins, we should come to this sacrament to receive God’s forgiveness.