Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost—30 September AD 2007
“Jesus, getting into a boat crossed over, and came to His
We tend to think of our Lord as
being from Nazareth, the town where he grew up with Mary and Joseph, but when
this morning’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ “own town,” it is referring to
the town of Capharnaum. During His public life Jesus moved around quite a
bit, but His base of operations was this small town on the northern shore of the
Sea of Galilee.
Capharnaum was a bit more accessible, both in that it is approachable from the
Sea, and in that it is along the route that connected the Syrian city of
Damascus with the south.
It is generally held that he lived
there in the house of Saint Peter, for the Gospel refers to Him healing
Peter’s mother-in law, who then saw to His needs in Peter’s house.
Mark and Luke describe today’s event by saying that Jesus was “at home,”
and that there was a large crowd pressing all around Him waiting to be healed.
The crowd was so large, in fact, that the sick man’s friends went up on the
roof of the house, took off some of the roofing tiles, and lowered him on a
pallet through the opening they made in the roof. One can only imagine the
horror of Peter and his family when they realized that men were taking their
very own house apart in order to see Jesus!
But it should be a lesson to us
whenever we find ourselves tending to the care of the sick. That is one of
the corporal works of mercy, and we ought to view it as an opportunity, and not
as a burden. Indeed, the care and visitation of the sick is one of those
things that Jesus took as a personal favor to Himself: “I was sick and
you visited Me ... when you visited one of the least of My brethren.”
In this case, it was not just a polite visit, but the sick man’s friends
“went that extra mile” to be sure that he got the care that he needed.
We can also apply this lesson to
those who suffer from spiritual illness. As the sick man’s friends made
sure that he got to see Jesus for his physical illness, we should also see to it
that those who have fallen away from the Faith are led back to Jesus for His
forgiveness and spiritual healing. To some degree, we will do this through
admonition—but, more importantly, we can lead souls to God through our prayers
for their conversion, and through our good example. Many people don’t
want to be told of their faults, but are more willing to follow good
example—and no one can resist the power of prayer when it conforms to God’s
Note that our Lord’s first words
to the paralyzed man were: “Take courage, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
Throughout the Scriptures we are reminded that suffering, sickness, and death
are connected to sin. The sin of Adam brought mortality to a
race that would not otherwise have known it. In another Gospel reading,
our lord cured another sick man, and then admonished him to “sin no more,
lest something worse befall thee.”
We may learn from this that whenever was ask something of God, we must have the
intention of making God’s will our own. It is foolish to think that we
can make demands on God, and then go on living as though God Himself does not
exist—we cannot expect good from God if we insist on continuing in our sins.
God knows that we are imperfect, and
that there is a strong chance that we will sin again—but He does expect
remorse on our part, and a firm intention to change our ways, even if only a
little bit of the time.
Our Lord forgave the sins of the
paralytic man, and that provoked a strong reaction from the Scribes and the
Pharisees, who were the lawyers and strong advocates of the Mosaic Law.
“This man blasphemes,” they said. “Blasphemy,” if we were to
define it, is “defaming the name of God,” “using His name to curse
another, or to curse God Himself,” or to “set one’s self equal or superior
to God.” When Jesus said, “thy sins are forgiven,” He was declaring
Himself to be God’s equal. And, in spite of His miracles and His
holiness of life, many of the scribes and Pharisees never got around to
accepting the idea the Jesus Christ is indeed God, the Son of God.
One might find some excuse for them
in that this healing took place relatively early in our Lord’s public
life—at this point they had relatively little knowledge of Jesus and the
divine powers He exercised. On this occasion, the man appears not to have
been healed (or didn’t recognize that he had been healed) until after
their complaint, when Jesus knew their thoughts, and told the man to get up and
walk, and take the pallet with him back to his home.
There would be no such excuse a few
years later, when all of Palestine was buzzing with the news of the Man from
Nazareth who calmed the waves, and fed the multitudes, and cured the sick, and
raised the dead.
We must also recognize that there is
no excuse for us. With the benefit of hindsight, we know a great deal more
about Jesus than the Scribes and Pharisees ever did. We know the
relationship of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost with some small
precision. Many times we have professed our belief in that relationship:
“I believe in God the Father almighty ... and in Jesus Christ, His
only-begotten Son ... and in the Holy Ghost, the lord and giver of life.”
So whenever we treat Jesus Christ with disrespect, in thought, word, or deed, we
are considerably more guilty than the Scribes and Pharisees of today’s Gospel.
And, finally, we
learn from today’s Gospel that nothing can be hidden from the knowledge of
God. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts in your hearts?” That
question is directed to us, every bit as much as it was directed to the Scribes
and Pharisees two thousand years ago.
“Why do you
harbor evil thoughts in your hearts?” Our Lord warned against committing
adultery in our hearts, just by looking at someone with lust.
But that is certainly not the only sin we can commit in our minds. To sit
and think about how deeply we hate someone; or how we envy their good
looks or their prosperity; mentally to find fault with people, to mock
them in our minds, to pridefully put them down as inferiors; to plot theft
or revenge—all of these things are sins which might commit in our minds, just
as the lustful look can be adultery.
And very often,
what we plot with care in our minds, we eventually, bring to completion in the
world around us. Things like hate, and pride, and envy, have a way of
“crystallizing” into reality as fights, and murders, and curses, and thefts,
and so on. So whenever we find ourselves thinking of evil, we should
always find something else on which to concentrate. And if we can think of
nothing else, perhaps it is time to think about the inevitability of God’s
paralytic, God has come to heal us from our sins. He can do this because
He is God and has entrusted His power to those whom He has made His priests.
This is not blasphemy, but reality, and, indeed, it would be blasphemy to deny
this divine reality. We must not sin in our minds, any more than we may
sin in our words or deeds. God knows the hearts of men—no sin can be
hidden from Him, not even in the inner recesses of our minds.