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Anything but Ordinary
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, soften my heart and teach me to lose my doubt. I love you; I have faith in you. I want to serve you, but sometimes doubt creeps in. Strengthen my faith and my trust in you. You alone are the source of life and healing.
- Extraordinary: The readings of this first week of Ordinary Time have depicted events that are anything but ordinary. Today’s Gospel is no exception. Jesus had shown that he could heal lepers, free the possessed, and raise the dying. His popularity had exploded. Excitement was at a fever pitch. When the word got out that he was at home, the crowds who followed him unrelentingly gathered there as well. They were all looking for healing, meaning, purpose. We come to Jesus’ home every Sunday. What are we looking for?
- Friends Like This: The paralytic has some very devoted and loyal friends. Their faith and devotion moved the heart of Jesus and won for their friend the greatest of all gifts—forgiveness of his sins. Jesus’ message to us is clear: it is good to be physically well, but to avail ourselves of the sacrament of Reconciliation so as to be forgiven our sins is a far greater good. This paralytic, with the help of his friends, went to great lengths to encounter Christ. We have only to prepare our hearts and show up at church at the appointed time. How grateful are we for this experience of divine forgiveness? “Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself in my mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of my grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy…”) Jesus to Sr. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul).
- They Just Didn’t Get It: One would think that the scribes, who had spent their lives studying Scripture, would recall the words of the prophets regarding the Messiah and realize that he was in their midst. Instead, they criticized Jesus and demanded to know why he thought he had the right to forgive sins. Jesus’ brilliant response did three things: it established his authority to heal, it established his authority to forgive sins, and it held the door open for the scribes to accept the Messiah. Jesus, our Savior, is a God of second chances. He truly loves each one of us and wants us to enter into a loving relationship with him. Jesus can reach even the most hardened sinners. Jacques Fesch was a murderer in the 1950s who experienced a profound conversion while in prison. He said of this experience: “At the end of my first year in prison, a powerful wave of emotion swept over me, causing deep and brutal suffering. Within the space of a few hours, I came into possession of faith, with absolute certainty. I believed … Grace came to me. A great joy flooded my soul, and above all a deep peace.” Jacques Fesch is being considered for canonization. Truly no one is beyond the reach of Jesus’ saving grace–not the scribes who tried to derail his mission, not a man who found Our Lord while he was on death row–no one.
Conversation with Christ: Oh my Lord. I am so grateful for two things: that you look beyond my prayer to see what I really need; and that you are a God of second chances. Often I pray for something and you do not grant what I ask. Later I see that you were working the whole time for the betterment of my soul. When I mess up, you are always there to redirect, transform, and forgive me. I give you thanks for your great wisdom and your great mercy.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will seek out an opportunity to bring a friend to you for healing.
For Further Reflection: The Final Hours of Jacques Fesch.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in marriage and business for over thirty-one years. They are grateful for their five young adult children and large extended family.