Forgiveness and Healing

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,
“This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,
“Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he then said to the paralytic,
“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe
and glorified God who had given such authority to men.
(Matthew 9:1-8)

Scripture Study

9:1 his own city: Capernaum in Galilee (cf. 4:13; Mk 2:1).

9:3 the scribes: Jewish leaders and experts in the Mosaic Law. The episode marks the beginning of a growing resistance to Jesus, which culminates in his death (16:21; 20:18; 27:41–43). blaspheming: A charge leveled at Jesus for his claim to absolve sins (cf. Lev 24:16; Jn 10:33). From the scribes’ perspective, only God can rightly forgive (Ps 103:12; Is 43:25; Mk 2:7). Moreover, this forgiveness was available only through the sacrificial system of the Temple. Jesus’ actions hence prove scandalous: he not only claims to forgive, but he does so apart from the Old Covenant system. In the end, the scribes remain unaware that Jesus has divine authority to inaugurate the New Covenant (Jer 31:31–34; CCC 589).

9:6 that you may know: Since forgiveness cannot be verified by his audience, Jesus demonstrates his power by healing the man. His authority over paralysis points beyond the body—it signifies his ability to cure the soul. The OT indicates that bodily sickness is sometimes tangible evidence of sin (Ps 107:17; Is 33:24; cf. Jn 5:14; 9:2). ● Anagogically (St. Ambrose, In Luc.), the healing of the paralytic signifies the future resurrection of the faithful. The paralytic is the Christian whose sins are forgiven and who stands before God as son (9:2). When the Lord raises him (9:7), he will take up the bed of his body (9:7) and proceed to his heavenly home with God (9:6; cf. Jn 14:2–3).

9:8 authority to men: The crowd links Jesus’ authority with his power to forgive. ● Matthew’s description points forward to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After his Resurrection, Jesus invests other men (apostles) with this same power to forgive sins in his name (Jn 20:23; cf. Mt 18:18; CCC 1441, 1444).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in our Gospel today Jesus heals a paralytic but not before first forgiving his sins: “And … people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.'” Jesus read the hearts of Scribes who had decided he was blaspheming, and so he replied, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?'” When no reply came, Jesus sent the man off home carrying his stretcher.

The story affirms that Jesus offers us forgiveness and healing. Even though we are sinners, even though we are hopeless in our hatred and stupidity, even though we had gone (and would still go today) to the limits of killing God’s own son, God still loves us; God still forgives us. We know that nothing can possibly separate us from the love of God because we hear in the greeting of the risen Jesus that every and any sin can be forgiven.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.