DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “Your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:1-8).
Gospel of Thursday, 13th week in Ordinary Time
After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? 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 then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Matthew (with permission)
- The sick man and those who bring him to Jesus ask him to cure the man’s physical illness; they believe in his supernatural powers.
- As in other instances of miracles, our Lord concerns himself more with the underlying cause of illness, that is, sin. With divine largesse he gives more than he is asked for, even though people do not appreciate this. St Thomas Aquinas says that Jesus Christ acts like a good doctor: he cures the cause of the illness (cf. Commentary on St Matthew, 9, 1-6).
- 2 The parallel passage of St Mark adds a detail which helps us understand this scene better and explains why the text refers to “their faith”: in Mark 2:2-5 we are told that there was such a crowd around Jesus that the people carrying the bed could not get near him. So they had the idea of going up onto the roof and making a hole and lowering the bed down in front of Jesus. This explains his “seeing their faith’’.
- Our Lord was pleased by their boldness, a boldness which resulted from their lively faith which brooked no obstacles. This nice example of daring indicates how we should go about putting charity into practice as also how Jesus feels towards people who show real concern for others: he cures the paralytic who was so ingeniously helped by his friends and relatives; even the sick man himself showed daring by not being afraid of the risk involved.
- St Thomas comments on this verse as follows: “This paralytic symbolizes the sinner lying in sin”; Just as the paralytic cannot move, so the sinner cannot help himself. The people who bring the paralytic along represent those who, by giving him good advice, lead the sinner to God” (Commentary on St Matthew, 9, 2).
- In order to get close to Jesus the same kind of holy daring is needed, as the saints show us. Anyone who does not act like this will never take important decisions in his life as a Christian.
- 3-7 Here “to say” obviously means “to say and mean it”, “to say producing the result which your words imply”. Our Lord is arguing as follows: which is easier — to cure the paralytic’s body or to forgive the sins of his soul? Undoubtedly, to cure his body; for the soul is superior to the body and therefore diseases of the soul are the more difficult to cure. However, a physical cure can be seen, whereas a cure of the soul cannot. Jesus proves the hidden cure by performing a visible one.
- The Jews thought that any illness was due to personal sin(cf. Jn 9:1-3); so when they heard Jesus saying, “Your sins are forgiven”, they reasoned in their minds as follows: only God can forgive sins (cf. Lk 5:21); this man says that he has power to forgive sins; therefore, he is claiming a power which belongs to God alone — which is blasphemy. Our Lord, however, forestalls them, using their own arguments: by curing the paralytic by just saying the word, he shows them that since he has the power to cure the effects of sin (which is what they believe disease to be), then he also has power to cure the cause of illness (sin); therefore, he has divine power.
- Jesus Christ passed on to the Apostles and their successors in the priestly ministry the power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18). Priests exercise this power in the sacrament of Penance: in doing so they act not in their own name but in Christ’s — in persona Christi, as instruments of the Lord.
- Hence the respect, veneration and gratitude with which we should approach Confession: in the priest we should see Christ himself, God himself, and we should receive the words of absolution firmly believing that it is Christ who is uttering them through the priest. This is why the minister does not say: “Christ absolves you . . .“, but rather “I absolve you from your sins . . .“: he speaks in the first person, so fully is he identified with Jesus Christ himself(cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, II, 5, 10).
TOPIC 1: DO YOU REALIZE THE POWER OF YOUR INTERCESSORY PRAYERS?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus is struck by the faith of the men who carried this paralytic to Him for healing. We reflect today on Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man where Jesus tells him his sins have been forgiven even before He healed him. We also dwell on the need for us to pray for others and what the prayers of others can do for us.
TOPIC 2: Have you ever experienced a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos has conspired against you here within Israel; the country cannot endure all his words. For this is what Amos says: Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land.”
To Amos, Amaziah said: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now hear the word of the Lord!”
You say: prophesy not against Israel, preach not against the house of Isaac. Now thus says the Lord: your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; your land shall be divided by measuring line, and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land.
Amos was a Hebrew shepherd called by God to prophesy to the Israelites their destruction because they were distancing themselves from the Lord. Israel then had a prosperous economy. But as they became more intent on enriching themselves individually, their love for their neighbor soon had selfish undertones. They took advantage of others. There was no justice in the land, there was oppression of the poor and women were treated as objects in an immoral way. And Israel eventually was driven into exile.
The Old Testament was full of prophets and prophecies. And the coming of Jesus in the New Testament was prophesied. This prophecy was given 700 years before Jesus was born.
Today, there is a phrase called “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Simply put, what you believe will happen will happen as you subconsciously plant into your behavior what you think and believe will happen. For example, if you think that a speech you will deliver will not be great, your behavior will exhibit mediocre preparation and lack of self-confidence. And you will give a mediocre speech, as you expected.
In raising our children, our belief in their capabilities will be a big factor in shaping their eventual destinies. If we show confidence in them and believe they can achieve their dreams, our behavior towards them will the mold for their success. They can sense our confidence or lack of it and may influence the way they will deal with circumstances in their lives.
Similarly, projects succeed or fail depending on how we relate to the people within the team. Dislike for one another may be due to what we call “poison prophesy.” Somebody may have poisoned our minds into not liking this person. Without any effort on one’s part to change the negative perception to a team member, the resulting behaviors will spell conflict and eventually doom the project.
We ask the Lord to allow us to be a positive person to anyone we encounter. For our behavior towards people may determine how they will become. Let us be a blessing to one another and if we all start loving our neighbor, our expectation of going to heaven will be self-fulfilling.
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