Advent Journal: Day 9

christ_healing_paralytic

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.              -Isaiah 35:9-10

And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.               Gospel of Luke 5:18-25

In days of Jesus, there was a widespread assumption that illness or debility was a result of sin.  When Jesus was healing the people, and his friends brought the paralyzed man to him by lowering him through the roof, Jesus famously said to him, “your sins are forgiven.”  He said this, the Gospel writers tell us, because of the great faith that he and his friends showed in doing whatever he could to come to Jesus, and seek healing from God.  If we want something from God, we must will it with all our hearts.  It must the right thing, the thing that he wants from us, and not our mere pleasure or passion.  But especially to be forgiven of our sins, to be washed from all the evil and mean things we have done, “things ill done and done to others’ harm” as the poet tells us.  It is our faith that seeks, it is our faith that God can work with to purify our hearts, and save our souls for everlasting life.  This scene of the Gospel is the antithesis of those passages where Christ can work no miracle because of the peoples’ unbelief.  And here, as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy, Jesus reveals himself to the people by bidding the paralyzed man to rise and go home–a sure sign of his divinity. And yet, his greatest mercy was to forgive those men their sins; yes, there in that primitive mindset which says that we always earn our misfortunes somehow, which we know to be false, God mysteriously allowed in their hearts a desire for repentance, which allowed them to be healed of theirs sins, even if the occasion of the man’s paralysis was in no way punishment for sin.  Thus does God use the calamities which befall us, and which we so often cause ourselves, to be an occasion to shower us with His mercy.  May we all be the like paralyzed man and his friends, who let nothing stop them from appealing to the mercy of the Son of God, who, if we believe, will be able to heal our infirmities, forgive us our sins, and crown us with the life of everlasting joy and peace.

~ by Alypius on December 11, 2017.

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