May we all be blessed with friends like those of the paralyzed man in today’s gospel. We have no idea whether or not this man was from Capernaum itself or whether his good friends carried him a long distance. Their devotion to him was so great that the fact they couldn’t get into the house would not deter them. They worked their way up on to the roof, took off the tiles and lowered their friend down to Jesus. The great healer had come to town, and they were intent on having their friend healed by Jesus. They wanted their friend to walk, and Jesus was the one who would make that happen. Jesus must have been amazed at their loyalty and dedication to this friend. Seeing their faith, their trust in His ability to heal, Jesus looked at their friend and assured him his sins were forgiven.
The mentality at that time was that physical ills were a sign of something out of whack with that person’s moral or spiritual life. So keeping his priorities straight Jesus first heals the paralytic by pronouncing that God forgives his sin and wants to revive God’s mutual, intimate relationship with him. “Your sins are forgiven!” We are friends again. By calling this man “son,” Jesus publicly announces that the man is now a member of Jesus’ kinship group, his own family-like community.
As we heard, this shocks the scribes who were present. They believe Jesus to be blaspheming, ‘only God can forgive sins.’ So Jesus puts the question to them, ‘which is easier to say – your sins are forgiven or to say stand up, take up you mat and walk? So he commands the stricken man – get up and go home.
Jesus wants us to know that the primary interest in his entire healing ministry is the restoration of relationships – with God, with family, with friends. Friend of God stand up, take up your mat and go home to your family and friends.
When was the last time you went to confession? Please don’t answer. The name given to this sacrament is ‘reconciliation.’ That means putting relationships that were broken back together, healing our relationship with God, healing our relationship with the community of the church, our relationship with family and friends.
We all have negative memories of this sacrament. Standing in long lines thinking up things to tell the priest usually the same things we told the last time we entered the sin bin. For many of us it’s lost its meaning, because we had such a limited idea of this sacrament.
Scripture tells us that we all sin in many ways and as St. James says “if any man says he has no sin, he is a liar.” As we all know there are sins and there are sins – sins we know, sins we do not know and sins that do not bother us. There are sins that weaken our relationship with God and sins that rupture our relationship with God.
This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. We begin this season by being smudged with ashes, ashes that remind us that so many of our good intentions, resolutions and promises to God and to others have turned to dust and ashes. I suggest that during this coming season of Lent you reacquaint yourself with this sacrament of reconciliation.
Through our celebration of this sacrament of pardon and peace may we all be blessed to hear the life giving words of Jesus – friend your sins are forgiven – go in peace.