On the Gospel of Matthew 9:1-8
This Gospel passage reveals a story within a story – the main event is Jesus’ speaking to the paralytic and healing him – yet, in the middle of that event we see Jesus’ response to His opponents as He explains the point of the story. What Jesus was doing in his healing ministry was not simply performing physical miracles which are usually defined as violating or nullifying natural laws. Rather, He was showing by these acts of mercy that He was restoring a lost order. Disease and death were not natural to God’s creation, they were violations of it. The natural order was what God had created, but this had been tainted through the disobedience of Adam. For Jesus, the forgiveness of sin and the curing of disease are two sides of His mission, for all healing begins with forgiveness.
St. Matthew tells how some men brought the paralytic stretched out on a bed. The implication is that, not only the paralytic, but also those men who carried him believed Jesus had the power to heal. We know that for the paralytic it was his faith that saved him, it was his faith that made him whole. This suffering man believed in Jesus and wanted to be set before Him – and yet, the text says Jesus saw ‘their faith’. Our Blessed Lord recognised and rewarded the efforts of all those who helped this sick man on his spiritual journey. Although it was just one man that was cured, it was for the benefit of many. This reminds us that Christianity is not something directed towards a select few, but involves all mankind.
Like the paralytic in this passage, we too, need the support of like-minded Christians in the world. Like those who carried this paralytic, however, we also have an obligation to lead the suffering to an encounter with Jesus. Each of us has a part to play, both concerning our own personal sanctification, and in regard to the salvation of all souls. The fundamental principle behind Christianity is love of God and love of neighbour, yet connecting the two is not always straightforward. Our desire to see justice done for our brothers and sisters on earth is indeed a healthy desire, but if we are not careful, our own works may fill us with pride and distract us from the graces which are to be obtained from heaven. Acts of consolation play a vital role in the active life of a Christian, but we must allow room for Jesus to enter and perform miracles.
Jesus asks if it easier to cure a man of his sins or to physically heal him. The purpose behind the question, according to St. Matthew, was to prove how those who only saw the physical healing missed the point. We too will fail to understand what it means to be a Christian if we only look for visible signs. We too will miss the point if we only seek physical results without any spiritual healing. Our love for our heavenly Father should compel us to care for all our suffering brothers and sisters on earth. However, if we only direct our attention on those who we see to be suffering physically, or those whom we deem to be in any way marginalised, we would exclude a great many within our society. We must not judge by appearances who is in the greatest need of healing. Are we not all, in some way or another, desperately seeking the healing hand of Jesus?
So long as sin abounds, suffering will be part of human life. That is not to equate suffering as a form of punishment for personal sins – very often we see good people suffer innocently while those who disobey God appear to prosper. Regardless of our observations, however, all mankind is suffering because all mankind has fallen from grace. Sin is at the root of all our suffering. Sin is what Christ has come to heal us of, and continues to heal us through the sacrament of reconciliation. No matter how often we fall, Our loving God is always there to forgive. There is no greater good we can do as a Christian than to lead a lost soul back to Jesus’ divine mercy. We may not be granted visible signs, but it was for this spiritual healing that the Word became flesh.
As Christians we need to carry the sinner, and as sinners ourselves, we too need to be carried. Only when we humbly acknowledge our own sinfulness can we understand how Christ’s mission continues through the Church. Although humanity is made up of sinners, Jesus has promised to remain with us. He stands by us in His sacramental presence. We can trust that no matter how much we may suffer in this life, the ultimate healing comes with the resurrection. We who believe in Jesus and trust in His forgiveness know that in the age to come He will indeed restore the order of creation by making whole all who are in Him. That is the full effect of the atonement; that is the hope of glory.
Jesus got back in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.” And at this some scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, “Why have you such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic – “get up and pick up your bed and go off home.” And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.
– Matthew 9:1-8