Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost—30 September AD 2007

“Jesus, getting into a boat crossed over, and came to His own town.”[1]


    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.[3]  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.[4]  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.”[5]  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 plans.

    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.”[6]  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.[7]  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 just punishment.

    Like the 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.


[1]   Gospel:  Matthew ix: 1-8.

[2]  at

[3]   Cf. Matthew iv: 13.

[4]   Cf. Matthew viii: 14-15.

[5]   Cf. Matthew xxv: 31-46.

[6]   John v: 1-15.

[7]   Mark v: 28.


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