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13 February, 2012

 Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel reading: Mark 2:1-12

vs.1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum some time later, word went round that he was back;
jesusparalyticvs.2 and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them
vs.3 when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men,
vs.4 but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, 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.
vs.5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
vs.6 Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves,
vs.7 “How can this man talk like this? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?”
vs.8  Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, “Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts?
vs.9 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’?
vs.10 But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” –
vs.11 he said to the paralytic – “I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.”
vs.12 And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”


We have three commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Click on the name of the commentator required.

Michel DeVerteuil:  a Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal   

Thomas O’Loughlin:  Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales, Lampitor

Sean Goan:               Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches
at Blackrock College  and part time  at Milltown Institute


 Michel DeVerteuil
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels

General Comments

Today’s passage is complex. Scholars have analyzed it and shown that the passage is an interweaving of several stories, each with its own theme.
We can see three themes running through it:
       a) the healing of the paralytic;
       b) the forgiveness of sins;
       c) the controversy with the scribes.
We can remain with one theme, or meditate on them as a unit, each theme flowing into the next.
The following division can be helpful in identifying the different strands in the passage:
       a) verses 1-2 : the setting;
       b) verses 3-4 : the paralytic makes his appearance;
       c) verses 5-11 : dialogue:
       d) verse 12 : the result.
The healing of the paralytic is a tremendous story with many lessons about how we are called to respond to the vagaries of our daily lives.
As in all the healing stories, we are free to focus either on the one who was healed, or on Jesus the healer. If we are identifying with the paralytic, we make the journey with him in three stages, at each stage allowing the imaginative language to bring back memories which touch us. We can also identify with Jesus, the healer.
We are “carried on a stretcher by friends”, people of faith who “lower us from the roof” to the presence of the healer. In last week’s story, the leper symbolised the experience of feeling unclean, unworthy to associate with the community we belong to. The paralysed man symbolises a different experience, when we feel helpless, we cannot “walk on our own”, take charge of our lives, make decisions, take initiatives, respond creatively to the challenges of life. As a result of Jesus’ ministry, we are able “to stand up in front of the crowd” and to “go off home.”
We celebrate the wonderful moment when we are healed from our paralysis – we “get up, pick up our stretcher” and “walk out in front of everyone”, so that “they are all astounded.”
We start from the experience of “paralysis” resulting from failure of one kind or another. Jesus healed a variety of ailments and it is good to make a distinction between the different ailments, allowing each one to symbolize a particular form of human suffering. We think of various ailments such as suffering from some form of sickness; feeling that we don’t have enough confidence to speak out for ourselves; feeling that we have failed in some aspect of our lives and therefore cannot affirm our independence.
We celebrate parents, teachers, counsellors, friends, whose tender compassion (“my child”) has empowered us when we felt paralysed.

The issue of Jesus and the scribes is in two parts:
       (a) verses 6 and 7
       (b) Jesus responds, verses 8 to 10.
Here again the story is told in stages.  Jesus discerns the root cause of the paralysis – sins have not been forgiven. How often our paralysis is due to the fact that we haven’t experienced ourselves as forgiven – by ourselves, by those we love – those our modern language calls “significant others”, or then by God.  Few people have the wisdom to discern the root problem which keeps us paralysed. Once we hear those wonderful healing words, “My child, your sins are forgiven,”  “at once” we are healed of the paralysis. We can identify with the amazement of the crowd as they see the healing power of forgiveness.
As often happens in the gospels, the teaching is in the form of a controversy. Jesus and the scribes represent two possible ways of dealing with the situation. We have followed both ways at different times; often they are two tendencies struggling for power within ourselves.

We can interpret “Son of Man” in two senses.
       a) He is one person, the Messiah, Jesus, and by extension his Body, the Church. The passage then celebrates the Church’s ministry of forgiving sins, through the sacraments, counselling, spiritual direction, or (as has happened from time to time in recent years) by being an agent of reconciliation between warring factions in a community. Jesus asserts his power against the scribes who are sceptical about it.
       b) It has a collective sense – weak human beings. The scribes then are ourselves when we doubt the power of individuals or communities to break down barriers and forgive. The response of Jesus is our personal response – we know we can do it.

Verse 10 is difficult to interpret. It is first of all a sign that the different themes mentioned above have not been neatly meshed. It is not necessary to know the exact meaning of the verse; getting the general movement of thought is sufficient. 

Prayer Reflection

       “Always try to do too much, dispense with safety nets, aim for the stars.” 
       Salman Rushdie 
       Lord, we remember a time when we felt paralysed
       and had to be carried on a stretcher:
       – we had failed in an enterprise we had set our hearts on;
       – we were let down by someone we trusted;
       – we had committed a sin we never thought we would fall into;
       – our prayer life had become dry.
       We thank you for loyal friends
       who, like the four men who stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was,
       went to considerable trouble to bring us before the one who could heal us.
       They made an appointment for us, insisted on getting us in ahead of others,
       fitted us into a crowded schedule.
       We thank you for the Jesus they brought us to,
       who understood that we had allowed our sins to paralyse us
       – the foolish decisions we had taken;
       – our arrogance;
       – the secret addictions we had not attended to.
       We heard ourselves being called “beloved child”,
       we were told that our sins were forgiven,
       that we must pull ourselves together and make a new start.
       The words had an instant effect –
       we got up, picked up our stretcher and walked out in front of everyone,
       so that they were all astounded
       and praised you, saying “We have never seen anything like this”.

       Lord, we thank you for the ministry of forgiveness exercised by the ministers of 
       your Church,
       – through the sacrament of reconciliation,
       – counselling sessions in presbyteries;
       – mediation in social conflicts.
       We celebrate the countless paralytics – individuals, couples, communities –
       who were brought by friends to hear the healing words,
       “My child, your sins are forgiven,”
       and then picked themselves up and walked out in front of everyone.
       They thought to themselves that no one on earth had the authority
       to tell them that their sins were forgiven;
       now they are astounded and praise you, saying “We have never seen anything like this.”

       “Able to approach the future as a friend without a wardrobe of excuses.”  ..W.H. Auden
       Lord, we thank you for the times when you send people to confound the scepticism
       which prevents us from seeing the potential within ourselves and our communities.
       So often, like the scribes in the time of Jesus, we remain locked in the past,
       thinking that only some miraculous intervention can raise us up from our paralysis,
       and that we would be blaspheming if we were to say that our sins can be forgiven.
       Then you send us someone like Jesus who is inwardly aware of how we are thinking
       and has the moral authority to order us to “get up, pick up your stretcher and go off home.”

       “Hope for a great sea-change  On the far side of revenge…Seamus Heaney
       Lord, we pray today for societies that are paralysed
       because warring factions cannot forgive the sins of the past:
       – Northern Ireland
       – Arabs and Israelis
       – Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka.
       There are sceptics sitting among them, like the scribes in the time of Jesus,
       doubting in their hearts that you have given your human Sons and Daughters
       the authority on earth to forgive sins.
       Send them leaders like Jesus who are inwardly aware that many have these thoughts
       in their hearts,
       but see the faith of those who are looking for a new future
       and pronounce the words that all the ancient sins have been forgiven,
       command the former enemies to throw away the symbols of their past paralysis,
       and go off to make their country a home for all,
       so that all will be astounded and say,
       “We never thought we would see anything like this.”


 Thomas O’Loughlin
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew

Introduction to the Celebration

Introduction to the Celebration
We gather here as a people who have been forgiven our sins by Jesus, the Christ. We have recognised him as the one who brings us the Father’s mercy. We have heard his preaching of the kingdom, and we have sought to become part of his holy people. Gathered in his name and forgiven our sins, we are a people who now share in his banquet as the people to whom he has imparted his new life. Here today, we are the people of the resurrection who recall his mercy, healing, and forgiveness, and with him we offer thanks to the Father.

To bring this great mystery home to us, we are today recalling the healing of the paralysed man who was lowered through the roof so that Jesus could heal him. Jesus forgave him his sins, enabling him to walk away and begin a new life. Let us recall that we are a people who have been forgiven and who have been called to live the new life of faith.

1. The desire to be able to start afresh, to be able to put the past behind one, to be free of the legacy of foolishness, or the awareness of the guilt that can flood back into our present, is deeply rooted in each of us as human beings. If we are honest with ourselves, then the legacy of our moral failures, or greed, or our ingratitude stalks every one of us and can weigh us down like a paralysis. Joy would be a new start, a moving beyond the shadows of the past.

2. When this legacy of past failures confronts us, the default setting in most of us is denial: deny the fact of the failure, deny responsibility for the failure, deny the implications of the failure, and then seek forgetfulness and hope that forgetfulness will blank out the past, wipe the slate of guilt, and enable life to start afresh. Alas, denial merely compounds the problem and buries us ever deeper in a world of self-delusion; but we all try it and hope that it might bring us freedom from our past and from ourselves.

3. The tradition of the People of the Covenant, reaching right back to the time of the prophets, is startlingly different: admit failure, admit responsibility, and then seek to become reconciled with the community and with God. Seeking this reconciliation was the work of the high priest and his annual rituals on the Day of Atonement. The people publicly announced that their behaviour had set them at odds with God, and they sought restoration within his sight, and that restoration would allow the whole people to begin afresh.

4. It was in the light of that covenant that we seek to understand the new covenant with God into which Jesus has admitted us. Jesus forgives us, reconciles us, and offers us the strength we need to rebuild relations with one another and to seek to mitigate the damage our sins have caused. Hence the many titles we give him: Jesus is healer, saviour, redeemer, our reconciliation, our high priest, the one who brings us back to the Father, and the one who forgives our sins.

5. But how can we capture all these aspects of our created nature and our faith in a memory? Can we glimpse this mystery in a little nugget of memory? This little story of the sick man being lowered through the roof, being healed, being forgiven And then told to pick up his bed captures all out beliefs about Jesus in a moment. In it we see Jesus as healer, as saviour, as redeemer, as our reconciliation as our high priest, as the one who brings us back to the Father, and as the one who forgives our sins.

6. However, is this how you imagine the encounter of yourself as a sinner — in need of healing and reconciliation — with God?

7. Many people who may call themselves Christians think of this encounter more in terms of being dragged to a police station than of pressing forward to be close to Jesus. Many of us think of it more like a painful visit to the dentist than the calm words of Jesus telling the man he could get up and walk. Indeed, many people who preach in the name of Jesus are happier to announce a vindictive God who punishes any sinner that is encountered, rather than to think of Jesus forgiving this man and telling him to go off home.

8. Hearing this story challenges us to convert our own imaginations on how we see ourselves and how we see Jesus.


Sean Goan
Let the Reader Understand

Comments on Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

In chapter one of Mark’s gospel it was very evident how Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom was accomplished in both word and deed. He taught in the synagogues and he healed and performed exorcisms wherever he found people suffering. By his preaching and his actions Jesus was pointing to the presence of God in their midst and in today’s incident he does so again, this time through the gift of forgiveness. The scene invites reflection as Jesus’ action not only frees this man from the paralysis of sin but also highlights the obstacles Jesus has to face from those who seek the limit the ways in which God’s mercy may be experienced. It is interesting to note that the spark for Jesus’ action is the faith of those who go to such trouble to bring their friend to him and that the response of the crowds is once again wonder and praise.


A cynical commentator on religion once paraphrased the scriptures with the words: ‘In the beginning was the Word and the word was No!’ This is profoundly sad because, as we can see from these readings, God’s word to us yesterday, today and forever is always Yes. He says yes to life, to love and to everything that is good for humanity, for God only wants to show us how to avoid the path to self-destruction and to how find our true home in him. The good news of the kingdom is not a message about something that happened in the past in the Holy Land, it is eternally in the present for Jesus loves us anew every day.