Reflections on the Readings
Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time - February 22, 2009 Year B
By Dennis Hankins
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
Psalm 41:2-5, 13-14
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Theme: Only God Can Forgive Sins!
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Jesus)
Consternation! Bewilderment! Awe! All of these responses occur in today's Gospel. The scribes are filled with consternation. In their hearts they question, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Bewildered, Jesus said to them, "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? Then there is awe and majesty and wonder as the people say, "We never saw anything like this!"
I have this week, while meditating on what I should say on this passage, reflected interiorly if I was closer to the cynicism of the scribes or the wonder and awe of the people. You've heard the saying, "I can't see the forest for the trees!" It's amazing what is missed while staring directly at it. It is said if ten people witness an accident, there will be ten different eye witness versions of the same accident. The witnesses in today's Gospel certainly have different views on what is occurring. The scribes aren't ready to believe that Jesus is God. And the people and the paralytic are amazed and glorifying God.
It is given to us 'to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length, and height and depth.' Too often we live in and remain content in the shallow end of the river of life. While there is great blessing here, there is more. Reminded of Jesus' words to Peter to 'launch out into the deep', we reflect more deeply on who it is who says to the scribes and to us, "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic 'your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'be healed'?
In sacramental confession, we meet Jesus who is the same, yesterday, today and forever; in whom the promises of God are Yes in him. It is always a rediscovery of the joy of our salvation to hear again that Jesus loves us, Jesus forgives us, that Jesus wipes out our offenses for his 'own sake', and declares in the words of absolution, 'your sins I remember no more.' It is the priest in the person of Christ, who helps us to see more clearly what the people in the Gospel saw, which is, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
Which is easier to say? That is another way of saying, "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?"
The four friends of the paralytic helped their friend to draw near to the Lord. We are promised in scripture that if we will draw near to the Lord, he will draw near to us. The ear of the Lord is not deaf to our prayers and his eye is not blind to our need. Perhaps more than anything we need to be renewed in our hearts, to believe again that fervent, believing prayer brings us to the same Jesus the man stricken with paralysis met. Like the woman who believed she would be healed if she could but touch the hem of Jesus' garment, let us draw near.
This being the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, how appropriate we begin the Lenten journey knowing Jesus draws us to himself. He who fed the multitude, turned water into wine, invites us to his banqueting table where his banner over us is love. "Come unto me," he says. "All you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. For my yoke is easy and my burden light."
Let us draw near to him in whom all authority in heaven and on earth resides. Even Jesus who was wounded for our transgressions, whose back was laid bare to the whip for our healing. As we approach the Lenten practices of prayer, confession, fasting and almsgiving, today's readings aid us in anticipating the graces of our Lord; a renewal of trust and faith in Him with whom nothing is impossible.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, help me to seek you with my whole heart. Renew in me the fervency of my first love for you. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Keep me in the palm of your hand. Take not your Holy Spirit from me. Amen.