A Return to Physical and Spiritual Integrity

– Thursday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time –

“[S]o that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—[Jesus] then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” [Matthew 9:6]

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus performs a miracle of physical healing to prove he has the spiritual authority to forgive sins.

At the time of Jesus’ public ministry, it was widely believed that physical impairment was a consequence of personal sin. An example of this can be found in John’s Gospel, when the disciples ask Jesus about a man who had been born blind: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents …?”; a belief Jesus refutes by saying that neither the man nor his parents sinned, but that “he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (John 9:3). (To be fair to the disciples, the Old Testament regularly supports the assumption that physical ailments are a penalty given to sinners from on high. See, for instance, Genesis 3:14, 16, and Numbers 12:8-10).

So what is the significance of Jesus’ double-healing in which he not only cures the paralytic of his ailment but also absolves him of his sins? A clue is found on the lips of the scribes: “This man [Jesus] is blaspheming” (Matthew 9:3). He is ‘blaspheming’ because only God had the authority to forgive sins (see Mark 2:7). The implication, therefore, is that by forgiving the man his sins, Jesus is claiming to be God. Note well, however, that here we no longer find a God of wrath, but a God of mercy and healing. In Jesus, God has finally come to restore human beings to the fullness of their original integrity, to the spiritual and physical wholeness which had been lost through the sin of Adam.

Let us pray:

Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved;
for you are my praise. (Jeremiah 14:17)

by Mark Makowiecki

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