By Leon Suprenant | December 10, 2007
Today’s Gospel at Mass was St. Luke’s account of the healing of the paralytic. One verse from that passage has always stood out to me: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘As for you, your sins are forgiven’” (Lk. 5:20).
Jesus attributes the healing–physical and spiritual–of the paralytic to the faith of his four friends who lowered him down on a stretcher through the tiles of the roof.
This verse doesn’t mean that the friends’ faith must not also become the paralytic’s faith. After all, the faith of the Church, experienced and expressed through our communion with Christ’s mystical body, must also become my personal faith.
At the same time, the friends do teach us about the crucial role we can play in bringing others to Christ, whether we’re missionaries or catechists or even parents as our faith becomes our children’s faith at Baptism. And more generally, the friends remind us about the power of intercessory prayer, that our relationship with the divine mysteriously leaves room for “holy teamwork” as we help one another come to Jesus and together as God’s children through adoption experience His healing and mercy.
Speaking of St. Luke’s Gospel, one of the best books we’ve published at Emmaus Road is Dr. Tim Gray’s Bible study on Luke, entitled Mission of the Messiah. Here is a taste of Tim’s teaching as it relates to this passage:
“Notice too that Jesus does not say to the man, ‘you are healed,’ but ‘Rise . . . and go home.’ The word for rise (egeire) is the same word used to describe Jesus’ rising from the dead. Just as through sin death entered the world, so too, with forgiveness of sin, new life and resurrection come to those who follow Jesus. . . . When Jesus forgives us our sins, we too ‘rise’ and are able to ‘go home,’ home to the Father.”
Maybe in another post we can examine St. Matthew’s account of this incident, where this interesting detail is included: “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid and they glorified God, who had given such authority [to forgive sins] to men” (Mt. 9:8). This verse points us unmistakably to John 20, where Our Lord indeed invests other men, namely His Apostles, with His authority to forgive sins in His name–a ministry that continues to this day in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.