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Matthew 9:1-8

The Word of God

And after getting into a boat Jesus crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he then said to the paralytic - "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

Matthew 9:1-8
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • The gospel depicts Jesus who is strong and powerful. He confronts his critics, he performs a miracle, he proclaims the forgiveness of sins. I imagine myself seeing all this happen before my eyes, and join the crowds who were filled with awe at what they saw.
    • • The scribes thought that Jesus was blaspheming when he declared that the paralytic’s sins had been forgiven. Yet at the end, the crowds glorified God who had given such authority to human beings. I too thank God for giving this power to the Church, for the great privilege of having my sins forgiven through the sacrament of penance.
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    • Some people today look on Jesus as having been no more than an admirable human being and teacher. But in this scene, not only does Jesus set out to show his original audience that there’s more to him than this – he almost seems to be reaching out to ourselves, over the centuries, to cure us too of any such ideas.
    • With the paralytic, he doesn’t just perform a miracle of healing. He lays down a claim beforehand – and then the miracles is to be the proof that backs up the claim.
    • The people of that time had no illusions about the claim that Jesus was making : either he was going to act through God’s power – or he was blaspheming (a crime for which offenders could pay with their lives).
    • Jesus was more than a teacher or preacher : he was also a worker of miracles. Further again, however, he was much more than just a wandering preacher to whom God might have given the gift of healing. He was on earth to give us a living, first-hand demonstration – both through his words and his ‘works’ – of what the God of heaven is actually like.
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    • This passage focuses on something that is central to Jesus’ way of relating with us. He sees how all of us are in need of forgiveness, of having our limited and sinful human nature accepted. So that, rather than be angry, guilty or aggressive with ourselves and others, He suggests instead that we assume a gentle, forgiving or accepting attitude to this limited side of ourselves.
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    • Jesus is touched by the trouble which his friends took for the paralysed man. It is their faith and concern that moves him to heal the man both spiritually and physically. Likewise, my prayer of faith for others moves Jesus to meet their needs and gives me a share in the healing mission of Christ and of all Christians.
    • The paralytic represents the universal human need for God’s forgiveness. In asserting his authority to forgive sins, Jesus comes into conflict for the first time with the religious establishment. I need to allow divine forgiveness to flow through me as it does in Jesus.
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    • It must have been uncomfortable for the Pharisees to have Jesus say out loud what they spoke quietly and believed in their hearts. Time spent with Jesus brings the truth to the fore.
    • It often seems to be the case that those who assist the poor and the sick impress Jesus. Here, again, he reacts to their faith. I am reminded that faith is not just a matter of my convictions but is expressed in how I live. I think of how I spend my time; I consider where my faith is evident.
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    • In the Gospel, there are no ‘throw-away’ miracles; every wonder worked by Jesus has a teaching point – nowhere more so than with this cure of the paralytic.
    • For every person in the capacity-audience of this story, to be Jewish meant : to be a believer in the one God – and not in the neighbouring nations’ multiple gods. But how then was Jesus to get across the notion of the divine in himself – a notion that ‘blew’ all the mental categories of his hearers?
    • The key was, to make the claim to forgive sins - for, only God could do that – and then to back up this claim with an actual miracle. The Gospels give great coverage to the story : Jesus got his reaction – ‘teachers of the law who had come from every village in Galilee, from Judaea and from Jerusalem’ exclaimed : “Blasphemy!”
    • The crowds “glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings”. In fact, the gap between God and human beings had been narrowed. The standing-room-only crowd looked up and saw chinks of light as the roof-tiles were removed to make way for the stretcher – But ‘sky-blue’ totally new thinking would next have to penetrate.
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    • Lord, I believe you had a special word for the carers, the people who carried the paralysed man and placed him where he caught your attention. It was their faith that you noticed. Thank you, Lord, for the work of carers, mostly women, often taken for granted. Sometimes it is the loyal, unmarried daughter who is left to look after a helpless parent. She may even feel guilty when she begs for someone to stand in while she takes a well-earned break. These are the true uncelebrated heroines of our communities; their love is shown in deeds.
    • The paralysed man was brought to Jesus by friends or neighbours. Forgiveness for his sins came to him in the company of others, without whom he would not have got near Jesus. It is the same today. We go to God in the community of the church and of many others. Our faith, while it is personal, is never to be private. Faith brings the needs of others to our sight, and faith in Jesus gives an inspiration to be the ones who help heal the sick and help anyone in difficulties.
    • "Take heart...stand up...go home." Three encouraging words of Jesus to allow forgiveness cheer us up, to allow our contact with him to bring us alive and to know that everywhere on the earth is our home because everywhere is his home, and he lives within us.
    • The people of Jesus' town were quick to judge, springing to the defence of the religious principles. They had lost sight of the bigger picture that Jesus had in view; he wanted to restore health and wholeness.
    • Jesus longs for me to live fully and freely. In this time of prayer I ask for liberty from what binds me and bring before God my desire for wholeness.
    • It must have been uncomfortable for the Pharisees to have Jesus say out loud what they spoke quietly and believed in their hearts. Time spent with Jesus brings the truth to the fore.
    • It often seems to be the case that those who assist the poor and the sick impress Jesus. Here, again, he reacts to their faith. I am reminded that faith is not just a matter of my convictions but is expressed in how I live. I think of how I spend my time; I consider where my faith is evident.