(Ordinary Time – Cycle B)
2 Cor 1:18-22
The readings taken from Sacred Scripture for this Sunday sing of the mercy and forgiveness that God offers to men as the beginning of a new life. The two central affirmations of today’s liturgy of the word are that of the prophet Isaiah, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa 43:25), and that of Jesus, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2:5). The forgiveness of God is an event that actualizes and renews the God’s original act of creation. Freely springing forth, this forgiveness, is a force which generates something absolutely new of life. It gives liberation from the interior slavery of man and of the physical and social suffering which torments all of humanity.
What is even more overwhelming about this new thing that is announced to Israel is the indestructible love and mercy of God. The images that the prophet uses in verses 24-25 are striking. In verse 24 the prophet affirms that Israel, instead of offering sacrifices worthy to the Lord as is proscribed, have rather, with their sins and rebelliousness, subjected God to slavery (the Hebrew verb: ´abad in causative form: “to render someone a slave”, “to subjugate one as a vassal”). They have tired him (the Hebrew verb: yaga´ in causative form), as if God were their slave. Yet God accepts this role and he enters into the service of Israel to remove their sins: “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isa 43.25). Such is God’s great mercy! Here it is worth calling to mind the words of St. John of the Cross: “The tenderness and truth of love by which the immense Father favors and exalts this humble and loving soul reaches such a degree- O wonderful thing, worthy of all our awe and admiration!- that the Father himself becomes subject to her for her exaltation, as though he were her servant and she his god. So profound is the humility and sweetness of God!” (The Spiritual Canticle 27.1)
The Second Reading (2 Cor 1:18-22) offers us a beautiful definition of Christ and of the true disciple. Both are a continual “yes”. Paul, accused of calumny by the Corinthian community, defends himself saying, “As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been "Yes and No.” (v 18). The disciple of Jesus is a man of the “yes” in love and in forgiveness, in truth and in faithfulness, but above all in the “yes”-“amen” that must continuously be offered to God with his existence through Christ Jesus. As such the disciple imitates Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in which “every one of God's promises is a ‘Yes.’” (v 20). Jesus Christ is the “yes” of God because in him the forgiveness announced by the prophets is fully accomplished, because he is the definitive fulfillment of the divine promise and because the antique law reaches, in him, it’s fullness. Jesus of Nazareth is the “yes” of God because in him, Israel and all humanity achieve the fullness of their human and spiritual vocation.
The Gospel (Mk 2:1-12) recounts the healing and the forgiveness of the sins of a paralytic in a “house” at Capernaum. Jesus is not in the synagogue. He enters a house, in the “living room” of daily life, which he converts into a sacred atmosphere where God offers man forgiveness and health. Jesus sets about teaching “the word” (ton lògon), this teaching immediately follows the narration of the healing of the leper we heard as last Sunday’s Gospel. (Mk 1:45). “The word” is the teaching of Jesus, through which his journey, his style of life, the novelty of God and the kingdom are made manifest. It is in this context of teaching , of “listening to the word”, that this forgiveness is given and meaning received. The physical and spiritual healing of this man is an expression of the efficacy of Jesus’ word, which gives forgiveness and restores the man’s dignity, frees him from his paralysis, and places him back within society as a new creation. The text highlights the antithesis between; the four people who carried the paralytic, couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, and consequently made an opening in the roof and lowered him on a mat through it (vv. 3-4) and the scribes that “were sitting there” (v 6). Those that arrived carrying the afflicted man had faith in Jesus and wouldn’t let anything get in their way of drawing close to the Master. The scribes on the other hand, “sitting there”, retain their posture as judges and teachers, eager to judge according to the law and the traditions, as they, together with the priests, hold that the only authentic distribution of divine forgiveness comes about through their extremely complicated purification rituals.
What is new is the way in which Jesus offers forgiveness to the paralytic man: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (v 5). It is a forgiveness that is freely given, completely unexpected, and total. The reaction of the teachers of the law is understandable. Divine forgiveness can’t be offered in this way, which according to the religious tradition of Israel demands a conversion of life and the offering of sacrifices according to Mosaic Law. Only by these means can we speak of God’s forgiveness. It is for this reason that they criticize Jesus saying, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v 7). In reality Jesus offered the forgiveness of God, as God, as a response to the faith of the man: “your sins are forgiven (by God)”, but without expecting the man to perform any religious act. The blasphemy, according to the scribes, was the audacity of Jesus to speak in the name of God without using any type of ritualistic or religious mediation. Jesus, the Son of God, “has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matt 9:6), because in him God is present in an immediate and total way. His word and his actions directly reveal God and bring salvation near. Jesus is more then the law and the temple. Only he can make real and proclaim the forgiveness of God on earth.
Near the end of the account Jesus addresses the paralytic and invites him to walk: “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” (v 11) This is not a simple miracle. It is a prolongation of the forgiveness and its most evident consequence. It is the proof that Jesus really forgave. His forgiveness transforms and elevates humanity. Jesus invites the forgiven and healed man to return to his home, to the place where everyday life is lived, where his everyday struggles await him, there where men live the normality of their existence. To be forgiven is to return to life. The account concludes with the cry of admiration of all present: “We have never seen anything like this!” (v 12) The people realize that something completely new has taken place: that forgiveness really exists!, that change is possible for man! The miracle that Jesus performed became a sign of his total victory over sin and the law, which renders man a slave. The will of God that Jesus today reveals to us, forgiving and healing the paralytic of Capernaum, is that of a father whose, “anger is but for a moment;…(but whose) favor is for a lifetime.” (Ps 30:5) a God that, “forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,… is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps 103:3,8,10)