Forgiveness And Healing
Matthew, Mark and Luke (in chapters 9, 2 and 5 respectively) all recall the cure of the paralytic. It is the quintessential Love Story: of friends who go to extreme measures to bring their buddy to the healing feet of Jesus; and, of the Merciful Love of God for a sinner. The paralytic’s friends are so committed to seeing him healed that they tear a hole in the roof over Jesus, who is preaching to a standing room only crowd, and then lower him down on ropes. In turn, Jesus is so impressed by the loving Faith of the four men that he forgives the paralytic’s sins –a Gift the paralytic was not even seeking.
This story is compelling beyond the miraculous cure it brings. It is the confluence or two seemingly disparate desires –the men and the paralytic seeking physical healing; and Jesus, seeking to heal the soul. Adding to the Mystery of Love, Jesus rewards the paralytic for the virtue demonstrated by the Faithful Four. It is a story where the unexpected result exceeds the miracle that was hoped for.
What appear at first glance, as disparate desires, are in truth congruent -both the Sick and the Savior desire wholeness. Sickness and Death entered the world through Sin. When we sin we separate ourselves from God. Cut off from the Vine of Life, we become sick -in need of a Savior. Like the paralytic, we lie in need of his Forgiveness and Healing.
Modern culture views man as possessing a body distinct from its mind and soul. In Jesus’ day, body, mind and soul were indistinct –to the point that if you were sinful, you would be sick. So when Jesus offered salvation, it was not just for our soul, but for our entire being- though he clearly and often, gave priority to the well being of our eternal soul over that of our mortal body. When he healed, he said, “Your faith has saved you.” The salvation he is offering us is then, holistic, not separate from our body and mind. The paralytic went home praising God because he was made whole.
The grace of salvation can and does restore our mind and body, but the profundity of restoring our soul, of re-introducing our spirit into the intimacy of his Holy Spirit, of reconnecting us to our Vine of Life, makes our reconciliation with God incomparable to the dim miracle of physical healing.
Matthew concludes this story most intriguingly: ‘A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.’ (Matt 9:8) He uses the plural form “men”, not the singular form which would have referred inclusively to Jesus. As a Catholic, it is natural to see how he is pointing forward to the precious jewel given our Church in the sacrament of Reconciliation, where the priest, in the name and person of Jesus, speaks today, those words we long to hear, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Yet too, for me, Matthew is also pointing back to the Faithful Four, and to us, when we do what they have done. They interceded for the paralytic, they brought a sinner to Jesus, they made known his needs to God. They participated in the salvation of his soul. They joined their Faith to his and opened the Floodgates of Mercy -unleashing God’s Forgiveness and Healing upon the paralytic. Their Love impelled them to Believe, to dare to approach the Throne of God and beg his Mercy. The Faithful Four foreshadow the Priesthood of Believers. Jesus, the Eternal Intercessor for mankind, invites us to join in his intercession to the Father!
Five verses later, Matthew reveals our Savior’s Heart, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go learn the words, ’What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.’ Jesus is Love. Love is Mercy. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is burning with the desire to shower us with his Mercy; and, he is calling us to join him –to be a fountain of his Mercy- to participate in his plan of Salvation, to intercede for his flock, to bring them and their needs to the feet of Jesus.Father God, I am still incredulous when you call me your child. You know my sins, yet you woo me back over and again. Jesus, you have healed me, forgiven me, and restored me without deserve, and then planted me in the fellowship of your Love. Holy Spirit, let me re-Gift the Mercy I have received, let me not see the sin, but the sinner. Give me the heart of The Intercessor. Give me the zeal of those Faithful Four.