Here is my homily for today.
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
February 19, 2012
Isaiah is speaking in the first reading to the people who have been held in exile for 50 years in Babylon. Israel had once a great nation. It was God who made them a great nation under King David.
But they had come to think they were a great nation by their own merit. They turned to false gods or no god. For this, God withdrew his protection from them and allowed their enemy, the Babylonians to defeat them as punishment for their sin.
Many of the Israelites were taken in exile from their own lands to Babylon. It would have been good if this had led them to repentance but many did not.
After 50 years, God says he is going to do something new. God removes their sins in a new way and restores the freedom of his people and returns them to the Promised Land.
Jesus comes with the power to do something incredibly new. He comes doing miracles and preaching God’s word and he comes to forgive sins in a way. Now, in today’s gospel, he combines the miracles and his preaching. He does a miracle and uses it as an opportunity to preach the truth.
Jesus has returned “home” and is preaching to the people. So many people have come that there is absolutely no space left. It’s even more crowded than we see at Christmas and Easter.
In the midst of the crowd, four incredible men arrive, actually five with the fifth being carried by his friends. I call them incredible men for two reasons. First, they care enough about their paralyzed friend to bring him to Jesus. Secondly, they have enough faith to do it.
When they find the crowds, they are not discouraged. They know that nothing is impossible for God. They know in their hearts that Jesus can help their friends. This is so important to them that they climb up on the roof and open it up. They get their friend up on the roof and lower him down to Jesus.
What is Jesus’ reaction?
Is he surprised? Does he yell at them for tearing the house apart?
No. We are told “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Child, your sins are forgiven.”
It does not say ‘when Jesus saw what they were doing” but “when he saw their faith.” He saw their faith in what they were doing for their friend but it is not their action that he is interested in but the faith behind the actions.
But he doesn’t just heal the paralytic. He forgives his sins.
Immediately the scribes react, seeing Jesus’ words of forgiveness as blasphemy for they know that only God can forgive sins. What they don’t realize is Jesus is Son of God. They say Jesus is blaspheming because he is making himself to be like God.
We have to remember that in those days, illness was seen as a penalty for sin. So, they should have seen a natural connection between healing and forgiving but they don’t.
It’s easy to see that the man’s paralysis is healed. It’s far less easy to see that his sins are forgiven.
Do we believe Jesus can forgive our sins?
Do we truly believe that Jesus has paid the price for our sins on the Cross?
Do we let Jesus forgive us?
Jesus freely dies for our sins but he does not force forgiveness on us. We need to reach for it with a contrite heart. To do so we must admit our sins. If we aren’t willing to admit our sins, we cannot be forgiven.
To offer us forgiveness, Jesus has given us the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, most commonly known as Confession.
It used to be that people would go as often as weekly. “Catholic guilt” said you must have done something bad. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way and people seldom go.
Some people don’t see their own sins. Some say why would I confess my sins to a priest. God is the one who forgives.
They are right. God is the one who forgives the sins. As a priest, I merely say the words as an instrument of God. I will also add that when we “confess” we aren’t telling God anything he doesn’t already know. God is everywhere and sees all we do.
So, the sacrament is not about telling God about something He already knows. It’s to declare our sorrow for our sins with contrite hearts.
We accept a penance not just as a “punishment” but as a sign of our desire to make amends. Then, the priest says the words of absolution and we are forgiven.
I know I haven’t always gone to Reconciliation as much as I should. But I know now that I am in the habit of going often, I am very much aware that God does not just forgive my past sins in the sacrament but also strengthens me with the grace to resist future temptation.
Jesus wants to forgive. Do you want to be forgiven?