Lectio Divina: Matthew 9:1-8
1) Opening prayer
You call your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of Your truth.
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 - Matthew 9:1-8
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.
• The extraordinary authority of Jesus. To the reader, Jesus appears as a person invested with extraordinary authority by means of words and actions (Mt 9:6-8). The authoritative word of Jesus strikes evil at its root: in the case of the paralytic man, on sin that affects the man in his liberty and obstructs his living: “Your sins are forgiven” (v. 5); “Rise, pick up your bed and go home” (v. 6). Truly all the forms of paralysis of the heart and mind to which we are subject are canceled by the authority of Jesus (9:6), because during His life on earth He met all these forms. The authoritative and effective word of Jesus awakens paralyzed humanity (9:5-7) and gives it the gift of walking (9:6) in a renewed faith
• The encounter with the paralytic. After the storm and a visit to the country of the Gadarenes, Jesus returns to Capernaum, His city. And as He was on His way, He met the paralytic. The healing did not take place in a house, but along the road. Therefore, along the road that leads to Capernaum they brought Him a paralytic man. Jesus addresses him, calling him “My son,” a gesture of attention that soon becomes a gesture of salvation: “your sins are forgiven you” (v. 2) The forgiveness of sins which Jesus pronounces on the part of God to the paralytic refers to the bond between sickness, failure and sin. This is the first time that the evangelist attributes this particular divine power to Jesus in an explicit way. For the Jews, a person’s illness was considered a punishment because of sins committed. The physical illness was always considered a consequence of one’s own or one’s parents’ moral evil (Jn 9:2). Jesus restores to man the condition of salvation freeing him from illness as well as from sin.
• For some of those who were present, for the scribes, the words of Jesus which announced forgiveness of sins was a true and proper blasphemy. According to them, Jesus was arrogant because God alone can forgive sins. They did not manifest openly such a judgment of Jesus but expressed it by murmuring among themselves. Jesus, who penetrates their hearts, sees their considerations and reproves them because of their unbelief. The expression of Jesus “To prove to you that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins...” (v. 6) He is going to indicate that not only God can forgive sins, but with Jesus, also man.
• The crowd, in contrast to the scribes, is seized by fear before the cure of the paralytic and glorifies God. The crowd is struck by the power to forgive sins manifested in the healing. People exult because God has granted such power to the Son of Man. Is it possible to attribute this to the ecclesial community where forgiveness of sins was granted by order of Jesus? Matthew has presented this episode on forgiveness of sins with the intention of applying it to fraternal relationships within the ecclesial community. In it the practice to forgive sins, by delegation of Jesus, was already in force; a practice which was not shared in the Synagogue. The theme of forgiveness of sins is repeated also in Mt 18 and, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel it is affirmed that this is rooted in the death of Jesus on the Cross (26:28). But in our context the forgiveness of sins is linked with the demand of mercy present in the episode which follows, the call of Matthew: “…mercy is what pleases Me, not sacrifice. And indeed, I came to call not the righteous but sinners” (Mt 9:13). Such words of Jesus mean to say that He has made visible the forgiveness of God, above all, in His relationships with the Publicans or tax collectors, and sinners, in sitting at table with them.
• This account takes up again the problem of sin and the forgiveness which should be given. It is a story that should occupy a privileged place in the preaching of our ecclesial communities.
4) Personal questions
• Are you convinced that Jesus, called the friend of sinners, does not despise your weaknesses and your resistance, but He understands and offers you the necessary help to live a life in harmony with God and with the brothers and sisters?
• When you have the experience of betraying or refusing friendship with God do you have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation that reconciles you with the Father and with the Church and makes you a new creature by the force of the Holy Spirit?
5) Concluding Prayer
The precepts of Yahweh are honest,
joy for the heart;
the commandment of Yahweh is pure,
light for the eyes. (Ps 19:8)