“They were astounded and glorified God saying: We have never seen anything like this.”
I hope you paid close attention to Sunday’s readings because this is one of those weeks when each reading clearly reveals the depth of God’s love for us. In the gospel we just heard, Jesus uses a miracle at Capernaum to show us his unconditional love and the promise of new possibilities. Jesus’ healing of the paralytic gave the man a fresh start and a chance to experience again the goodness of life.
Of course I’m not speaking about the physical healing that came through the word of Jesus. I’m talking about the miracle of the spiritual and emotional healing of the paralyzed man as Jesus forgave his sins and, in doing so, revealed the mercy and love that is God.
The scribes in Sunday’s Gospel were right in saying that only God alone can forgive sins. Jesus didn’t perform this miracle just for the benefit of a paralyzed man lying on a mat in some far-away place over 2,000 years ago. He did it for us… here in King of Prussia, and for all people throughout the centuries. By physically healing the paralytic Jesus gave us a visible sign of the invisible reality that he truly is the Son of God with the authority to forgive sins.
Our Lord gave his apostles and their successors the power to do the same for us. Our priests bring the miracle of God’s divine forgiveness to us every day in the sacrament of confession. With faith and a contrite heart, we too receive the grace of God’s forgiveness and the gift of a fresh start in our relationship with Him and our brothers and sisters.
Each of today’s readings shows us how to experience that miracle for ourselves. Acknowledge our sins – ask for forgiveness — and trust in God’s mercy and love. When we prayed the responsorial psalm we admitted that we are sinners saying : “Lord heal my soul, for I have sinned against you.”
That’s often the hardest part in reconciling with someone: asking for their forgiveness. Maybe we’ve become distant and separated by the pressures of work or have been preoccupied with worldly concerns. Perhaps we got so caught up in chasing our own ambitions that we ignored our responsibilities to family and friends. In all honesty, each of us knows our own sins. We know why we need to be forgiven. Admitting that we’ve done something wrong that damaged our relationship with God (or others) takes a lot of courage and humility.
As a worshiping community we have the courage to ask for God’s forgiveness at everyday at Mass. In the Eucharistic prayer, we pray to God the Father affirming our trust in His mercy and the certainty that he will welcome us back no matter what our offense. Listen to a part of that prayer:
“To us also, your servants, who though we are sinners hope in your abundant mercies, admit us, we beseech you, into the company of your saints…not weighing our merits but granting us your pardon.”
The weight of sin sometimes leads us to question our own self-worth – believing we are not “holy” enough to be forgiven. You know, Jesus never asked anyone if they were “holy enough” before he forgave them their sins. He didn’t heal the paralytic on the condition that he change his life and become more “holy.” Our Lord always forgives unconditionally. It’s the realization of having been forgiven – having been spiritually healed- that prompts us to be holy and change our life for the better.
In the first reading on Sunday, Isaiah told us that God was wearied by our sins. But, because he loves us so much, he is “doing something new” – providing a way for us to make it through the deserts of life and be refreshed in the river of his mercy. That way is the grace that comes through the sacrament of reconciliation. When we ask God for his mercy, he puts behind him all of our offenses; and as Isaiah said, “Our sins He remembers no more!” In the sacrament of reconciliation we receive that miracle of healing.
Wednesday of this week is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It’s a time when we are asked to turn away from sin and seek the forgiveness of God and neighbor; a time to repair broken relationships as we prepare to celebrate Our Lord’s victory over sin and death. What better time to trust in God’s mercy and ask for his pardon and peace?
Make it a point during Lent to personally experience Our Lord’s timeless miracle as he, through the ministry of the church, absolves us from our sins.
Then we too can join the people of Capernaum in glorifying God saying:
“We have never seen anything like this.”
God bless you.