Friday, January 18, 2019
1) Opening prayer
Father of love, hear our prayers.
Help us to know Your will
and to do it with courage and faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 2,1-12
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, "Child, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" –he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
• In Mark 1:1-15, Mark shows how the Good News of God should be prepared and spread. In Mark 1:16-45, he describes the objective of the Good News and the mission of the community. Now, in Mk 2:1 to 3, 6 there is the effect of the proclamation of the Good News. A community faithful to the Gospel lives values which can be in contradiction to the interests of the unjust society which surrounds it. This is why one of the effects of the proclamation of the Good News is the conflict with those who defend the interests of the unjust society. Mark gathers together five conflicts which the proclamation of the Good News brought to Jesus.
• In the year 70, the time when he wrote his Gospel, there were many conflicts in the life of the communities, but they did not always know how to behave before the accusations which they received from the Roman authorities and from the Jewish leaders. This series of five conflicts found in Mk 2:1 to 3, 6 served as a guide to the communities, those of the past as well as those of today. Conflict is not an incident along the road, it forms part of the journey.
• The following is the outline of the five conflicts which Mark presents in his Gospel:
1st conflict: Mk 2:1-12
2nd conflict: Mk 2:13-17
3rd conflict: Mk 2:18-22
4th conflict: Mk 2:23-28
5th conflict: Mk 3:1-6
Adversaries of Jesus:
The scribes of the Pharisees
The disciples of John and the Pharisees
The Pharisees and the Herodians
Cause of the conflict:
Forgiveness of sins
To eat with sinners
The practice of fasting
Observance of Saturday
To cure on Saturday
• The solidarity of the friends of the paralytic obtains the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is returning to Capernaum. Many people gather before the door of the house. He accepts everybody and begins to teach them. To teach, to speak of God, was what Jesus did the most. A paralytic, carried by four friends, arrived. Jesus is their only hope. They do not doubt about going up and they make an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. It must have been a poor house, with the roof being just mud covered with leaves. They lowered the stretcher with the man to Jesus. Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralytic: your sins are forgiven you. At that time people thought that physical defects (paralytic) were a punishment from God for any sin that had been committed. The Doctors of the Law taught that the person remained impure and therefore, incapable of getting close to God. For this reason, the sick, the poor, the paralytics, felt that they were rejected by God! But Jesus did not think this way. Such a great faith was a sign that the paralytic was accepted by God. And for this reason, He declares: “Your sins are forgiven you!” With this affirmation Jesus denies that the paralysis was a punishment due to the sin of the man.
• Jesus is accused of blasphemy by those who held power. The affirmation of Jesus was contrary to the catechism of the time. It was not in accordance with the idea that they had of God. And because of this they react against and accuse Jesus: He blasphemes! According to them only God could forgive sins. And only the priest could declare someone forgiven and purified. How could it be that Jesus, a man without studies, a lay person, a simple carpenter, could declare people forgiven and purified of their sins? There was also another reason which pushed them to criticize Jesus. They had thought: “If it is true what Jesus says, we will lose our power! We will lose our source of income”.
• By curing, Jesus shows that He also has the power to forgive sins. Jesus perceives the criticism. This is why He asks: “Which of these is easier to say to the paralytic: Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, get up, pick up your stretcher and walk? It is easier to say: “Your sins are forgiven you”. Because nobody can verify if the sins have truly been forgiven or not. But if I tell him: “Get up and walk!”, there, all can see if I have or don't have the power to heal. In order to show that He had the power to forgive sins, in the name of God, Jesus says to the paralytic: Get up, take up your stretcher and go off home! He cures the man! The leaders were confronted with a dilemma. Either their teaching was wrong and sickness is not related to sin, or Jesus had the power to forgive sins, proven by their own teaching! Thus, through a miracle, He taught that the paralysis of the man was not a punishment from God, and He showed that the faith of the poor is a proof that God accepts them in His love.
• The message of the miracle and the reaction of people. The paralytic gets up, he takes his stretcher, and begins to walk, and all say: “We have never seen anything like this!” This miracle reveals three very important things: a) The sicknesses of people are not a punishment for sins. b) Jesus opens a new way to reach God. What the system called impurity was no more an obstacle for people to get close to God. c) The face of God revealed through the attitude of Jesus was different from the severe face of God revealed by the attitude of the doctors.
• This reminds us of what a drug addict said once he had recovered and who is now a member of a community in Curitiba, Brazil: “I grew up in the Catholic religion. I abandoned it. My parents were good practicing Catholics and wanted us, their children to be like them. People were obliged always to go to Church, every Sunday and every feast day. And when one did not go, they would say: “God will punish you”. I went because this was imposed upon me, and when I became an adult, I no longer went to Mass. I did not like the God of my parents. I could not understand that God, the Creator of the world, could extend over me, a small child, threatening me with the punishment of hell. I liked much more the God of my uncle who never went to Church, but who every day, and I repeat, every day, bought twice as much bread than what he ate, in order to give to the poor!”.
4) Personal questions
• Do you like the God of the uncle or the God of the parents of the ex drug addict?
• Which is the face of God that others discover in my behavior?
5) Concluding prayer
What we have heard and know,
what our ancestors have told us
we shall not conceal from their descendants,
but will tell to a generation still to come:
the praises of Yahweh, His power,
the wonderful deeds He has done. (Ps 78,3-4)