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 he returned to Capernaum, some time later word went round that he was in the house; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as they could not get the man to him through the crowd, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, 'My child, your sins are forgiven.'
Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, 'How can this man talk like that? He is being blasphemous. Who but God can forgive sins?'
And at once, Jesus, inwardly aware that this is what they were thinking, said to them, 'Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven" or to say, "Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk"? But to prove to you that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth' - he said to the paralytic -'I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.'
And the man got up, and at once picked up his stretcher and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astonished and praised 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 indicates which is the objective of the Good News and which is 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 are in contrast with the interests of the 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 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 orientate the communities, those of the past as well as those of today. Because the conflict is not an incident of the road, even if 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 obtains for the paralytic 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 persons, arrived. Jesus is their only hope. They do not doubt to go up and make an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. It must have been a poor house, the roof, mud covered with leaves. They lowered the stretcher with the man, before Jesus. Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralytic: 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 an evident sign of the fact 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 persons forgiven and purified of their sins? And 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 truly the sins have been forgiven or not. But if I tell him: “Get up and walk!”, there, all can see if I have or not the power to heal. And 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! And 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 persons 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 persons 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 behaviour?
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)