thy sins are forgiven

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

James J. Tissot 1836-1902, The Palsied Man Let Down Through the Roof, Brooklyn Museum

Lord, in today’s Gospel, what power you manifest! If you heal the body, you first, by a greater miracle, heal the soul. You begin by what for us is the most important: peace of mind.

Our hearts desire peace and happiness, which none but you can give. Purify our souls of sin and the tendency to sin — the two great obstacles to interior peace. Help us to be faithful to your commandments and to our vows, that so we may attain eternal glory.

Jesus is once again in Capharnaum, his own city. As soon as his arrival is known, the sick begin to throng around him. The house is already full, when men appear, carrying another stretcher. Impossible to enter the house, but the bearers were determined, by one means or another, to bring their palsied friend to Jesus‘ feet. They climb on the roof — the house was a low one — carrying the sick man with them, and let him down, just at the Master’s feet.

The sick man looks trustfully at the Saviour; the onlookers stand breathless with suspense. What will happen now? Then Jesus breaks the silence, looking tenderly on the sufferer:

Son, take courage, thy sins are forgiven.

But some of the Scribes say to themselves,

He is talking blasphemously, God alone can forgive sins.

Jesus reads in their hearts as in an open book, and answers their unspoken thought:

Tell me, which command is more lightly given, to say to a man, Thy sins are forgiven, or to say, Rise up and walk?

He spoke to the sick man:

Rise up, take thy bed with thee, and go home.

They see the miracle; before their eyes the palsied man rises and walks; impossible to question the power of the divine Healer of soul and body.

(cf. St Matthew 9, St Mark 2)

What must the sick man’s joy have been when he heard those words

Son, take courage, thy sins are forgiven.

There was a moment when we too, with a palsied soul, were carried into the presence of Jesus. Shortly after our birth, pious parents had us carried to the church, that the waters of baptism might heal us and give us life.

In later life, paralysed by the sins we have ourselves committed, we too, after a sincere and contrite reception of the sacrament of penance, have heard those blessed words: Your sins are forgiven. Are we thankful enough for the grace the sacrament brings us? One of our daily prayers should be: My God, I thank you for your many pardons!

Our weekly confession is of great value to us.

Do we fully appreciate a sacrament in which an infinite God, insulted by his own creatures, at the first sign of sincere contrition not only forgives but forgets the sins which he casts behind his back?

We are weak and inconstant; not withstanding our best resolutions, we sin again and again. The Scriptures tell us that the just man himself falls seven times a day.

Life is a continual struggle against the wiles of the devil, and confession is always necessary because it gives us not only pardon, but also grace to persevere and ever to make a right choice between good and evil.

Our weekly confession is of great value to us. Each one brings us more grace and reduces our evil tendencies, thus making it easier to do what is right. By it, we learn to know ourselves better and to be more vigilant. We learn humility when we find how often we have to confess the same faults. Well employed, weekly confession is a sure path to perfection. If it becomes merely a burden, there is something that is checking us on the road to holiness.

The miraculous healing of the palsied man’s soul and body are but a shadow of God’s love and power. The sick man went to Jesus to implore, with faith and confidence, the cure of his body — how much more he received! God always gives us more than that for which we pray.

We too must go to Jesus whenever we feel the burden of sin. Our thoughts can be so mean, our words so hard, our conduct so uncharitable, our judgement so rash! There are days when, whatever our efforts, all seems to go wrong. Let us lift our eyes to Jesus and tell him of our shortcomings; then we shall hear him say

Courage! your sins are forgiven.

Dear Lord, we come to you full of hope and trust, just because our sins weigh so heavily on us. Cast a look of love upon us, and heal us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners!

from With the Church: Meditations on the Missal and the Breviary
edited by Father Mathias Goosens OFM
published 1962, cum approbatione ecclesiatica

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