daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Sunday, 7th Week of the Year, February 22, 2009
Is 43:18-19,21-22,24-25; Ps 40; 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mk 2:1-12

"And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, My son, your sins are forgiven... But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins-he said to the paralytic-I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home" (Mk 2:5,10-11).

Everyone was astounded to hear these words of Jesus Christ, telling the paralytic that his sins are forgiven. The scribes said, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy!Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mk 2:7). This was indeed something new, something truly extraordinary. It is an indirect indication of Jesus' divinity, for only God can forgive sins, as the scribes correctly point out. Even though Jesus did not say, "I absolve you from your sins," but only, "your sins are forgiven" (Mk 2:5), even so it is still an indication of his divinity, for who-except God alone-knows that this man's sins have been forgiven? and who-but God alone-has the authority to assure him that his sins have been forgiven? And this is precisely the great novelty that we see here, namely, that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, has power on earth even to forgive sins. He also forgave the sins of the woman who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Lk 7:48). Then to prove that he really does have this power and that this man's sins really have been forgiven, he cured him of his paralysis.

What could be worse than sin? We can endure even with joy any other problem or sickness, even martyrdom, if the risen Christ is shining in our heart (2 Cor 4:6), filling us with light and with the Holy Spirit as rivers of living water running through our stomach (Jn 7:37-39), rejoicing us interiorly. But sin is different. Sin darkens and saddens the spirit, causing depression and an anguished spirit. The saints, who are very sensitive, were in anguish even over very small imperfections. What joy, then, to hear that there is a remedy here on earth for this worst of all sicknesses, for this sickness of the soul, for this great sadness and depression, which sin or imperfections cause in the soul. "A man's spirit will endure sickness," says Proverbs; "but a broken spirit who can bear?" (Prov 18:14).

But the good news is that since the days of Jesus Christ there is a remedy on earth for the anguished spirit. There is a remedy for guilt. The Son of Man does indeed have "authority on earth to forgive sins" (Mk 2:10). And not only this, but he gave this power to his apostles, so that his Church might always have this power on earth.After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his apostles on Easter evening and said to them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:21-23). This is the great wonder that Jesus gave to his Church, namely, the same power on earth that he himself had to forgive sins and give us relief from this great sickness and sadness of soul. And we see that he sends out his ministers to do this, just as he himself was sent out to forgive sins on earth: "As the Father has sent me," he says, "even so I send you" (Jn 20:21).

We especially experience this wonder, this great relief for the worst of our sufferings on earth, in the sacrament of reconciliation. In this sacrament we receive the same relief and the same healing of our anguished spirit that this paralytic received when the Son of Man pronounced him forgiven for all his sins, and relieved of all the anguish and depression of his spirit.

How often do we ask God in our heart for forgiveness for a certain sin or imperfection which agonizes our spirit, but we still continue to be in anguish? And how often have we confessed our sin or imperfection in the sacrament of reconciliation, and went out feeling completely forgiven and happy, at peace with God? This is the wonder of this sacrament, that there is now on earth the power to forgive us our sins, that Jesus has sent out his ministers to perform this ministry.

Only God has the power to forgive sins-as the scribes correctly noted-and Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, equal to the Father in divinity, exercised this power on earth; and after his resurrection, he gave it to his Church, to his apostles, so that this ministry would always remain with his Church for the salvation and relief of those who believe in him. Such power has God given to his elect! including even the power to cure the most anguishing sickness of all, the depression of spirit caused by sin or by imperfections. God has so loved us that he has given us this power! Jesus Christ promised to give this power to Peter when he said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19). Here is the power to loose us from our sins; and as it is ministered to us on earth, so will it be accomplished for us in heaven. In this way Jesus Christ wanted this power to remain on earth after his ascension, to help us and give us relief for the anguish of our spirit. And later he gave this power to all his apostles (Mt 18:18; Jn 20:23).

This is truly a new thing on earth, a great wonder indeed!




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