Commemoration of the First Roman Martyrs

Lectionary: 380

You say: prophesy not against Israel,
preach not against the house of Isaac.
Now thus says the LORD:
Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city,
and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword;
Your land shall be divided by measuring line,
and you yourself shall die in an unclean land;
Israel shall be exiled far from its land.

In today's gospel, Jesus heals a paralyzed man by first forgiving his sins. The man had not asked for healing or forgiveness. Saint Matthew said "people" brought him and Jesus seemed to respond to those who carried him.

Clearly, he gave them more than they asked when he forgave the man's sins. If we suppose the man was conscious and fully aware, we can suppose the fellow was so much a part of his circle of friends that their request is obviously his. In that context the Lord's forgiveness of the individual's sin was a recognition that he belonged to a healing, forgiving community. His blessing was the sacramental sign that sanctifies a community that is already blessed.

However, if the man is not fully engaged in his healing -- some interpreters say he was brought in unwillingly by his friends -- Jesus' forgiveness and healing nonetheless opens the way to reconciliation and communion.

If we allow the light of today's first reading and Amos' curse upon Israel into this story we might suppose the paralytic represents the suffering nation. His illness is a punishment upon the nation and typical of his time; much as alcoholism, addiction and suicide are typical of ours. Perhaps this pandemic is God's punishment for legally sanctioned abortion.

Amaziah had complained to the King of Israel, "...the country cannot endure all his words." They were like an ominous shadow hanging over the land, blotting out the sun, poisoning the crops and livestock. The Hebrew prophets knew about "climate change," it came with Israel's sins and God's wrath.

If our nameless paralytic and his unidentified companions are typical of his time, then Jesus' healing forgiveness goes beyond this particular fellow and his malady. It is a clear sign of God's mercy upon the nation. The curse will be lifted; life will return. So says one who has authority to heal and forgive.

Of course, it will cost. Every time Jesus heals someone he generates more enemies; they will catch up with him during the Passover in Jerusalem. If he must restore our Earth's environment to its edenic original state, he must give his life on Calvary.

Recalling the First Martyrs of Ancient Rome, we pray that we who were sent to other nations who, like Rome, worship only power, will be found worthy of their company.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.