Monday, December 10, 2007

Gospel for Monday, 2nd Week in Advent

Old Calendar: St. Melchiades, pope and martyr

From: Luke 5:17-26

The Cure of the Paralytic in Capernaum

[17] On one of those days, as He (Jesus) was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with Him to heal. [18] And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; [19] but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. [20] And when He saw their faith He said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." [21] And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?" [22] When Jesus perceived their questionings, He answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts? [23] Which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, `Rise and walk'? [24] But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the man who was paralyzed--"I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home." [25] And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God. [26] And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen strange things today."


17. A little earlier, beside the lake, Jesus addressed His teaching to crowds (verses 1ff). Here His audience includes some of the most educated Jews. Christ desired not only to teach but also to cure everyone--spiritually and, sometimes, physically, as He will soon do in the case of the paralytic. The evangelist's observation at the end of this verse reminds us that our Lord is ever-ready to use His omnipotence for our good: "I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil', God declared through the prophet Jeremiah (29:11). The liturgy applies these words to Jesus, for in Him we are clearly shown that God does love us in this way. He did not come to condemn us, to accuse us of meanness and smallness. He came to save us, pardon us, excuse us, bring us peace and joy." ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 165). On this occasion also Jesus wanted to benefit His listeners, even though some of them would not receive this divine gift
because they were not well-disposed.

19-20. Our Lord is touched when He sees these friends of the paralytic putting their faith into practice: they had gone up onto the roof, taken off some of the tiles and lowered the bed down in front of Jesus. Friendship and faith combine in obtaining a miraculous cure. The paralytic himself had a like faith: he let himself be carried around, brought up onto the roof and so forth. Seeing such solid faith Jesus gives them even more than they expect: He cures the man's body and, what is much more, cures his soul. Perhaps He does this, as St. Bede suggests (cf. "In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, in loc."), to show two things: that the illness was a form of punishment for his sins and therefore the paralytic could only get up once these sins had been forgiven; and that others' faith and prayer can move God to work miracles.

In some way, the paralytic symbolizes everyone whose sins prevent him from reaching God. For example, St. Ambrose says: "How great is the Lord who on account of the merits of some pardon others, and while praising the former absolves the latter!...] Therefore, let you, who judge, learn to pardon; you, who are ill, learn to beg for forgiveness. And if the gravity of your sins causes you to doubt the possibility of being forgiven, have recourse to intercessors, have recourse to the Church, who will pray for you, and the Lord will grant you, out of love for her, what He might have refused you" (St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam, in loc.").

Apostolic work should be motivated by desire to help people find Jesus Christ. Among other things it calls for daring--as we see in the friends of the paralytic; and it also needs the intercession of the saints, whose help we seek because we feel God will pay more attention to them than to us sinners.

24. Our Lord is going to perform a public miracle to prove that He is endowed with invisible, spiritual power. Christ, the only Son of the Father, has power to forgive sins because He is God, and He uses this power on our behalf as our Mediator and Redeemer (Luke 22:20; John 20:17-18, 28: 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:9; Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus used this power personally when He was on earth and after ascending into Heaven He still uses it, through the Apostles and their successors.

A sinner is like a paralytic in God's presence. The Lord is going to free him of his paralysis, forgiving him his sins and enabling him to walk by giving him grace once more. In the sacrament of Penance, if Jesus Christ, "sees us cold, unwilling, rigid perhaps with the stiffness of a dying interior life, His tears will be our life: `I say to you, My friend, arise and walk,' (cf. John 11:43; Luke 5:24), leave that narrow life which is no life at all" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By," 193).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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