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The Grace of Forgiveness
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.
Opening Prayer: Thank you Lord for this time of prayer. I struggle to quiet my soul and listen to the wisdom you have for me. I offer my distractions to you. Purify my mind and speak to my heart.
- Spoke to Themselves: The scribes did not address Jesus directly with their accusations of blasphemy. They grumbled to themselves. But Jesus knew what they were thinking. He also knows what we are thinking. When we come before him in prayer, Jesus is overjoyed to receive us. If, in the moment, we are angry, confused, grieving, or suffering, we can be tempted to postpone our prayer and instead grumble to ourselves. Or we put on a “prayer face,” pretending nothing is wrong. Jesus can handle our strong emotions and invites us to come forward as we are. He wants us to trust him and bring our authentic selves to encounters with him in prayer and the sacraments so that he can strengthen us, shower us with gifts of the Holy Spirit, heal our wounds, and forgive our sins.
- Authority to Forgive Sins: The accusation of the scribes has born beautiful fruit for us! We need never wonder whether Jesus can forgive us. No matter how dark and ugly our sin has been, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Our venial sins can be forgiven by attending Mass worthily and receiving Communion, doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, fasting and almsgiving, and receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation. For mortal sin, the sacrament of Reconciliation is necessary. We can foster a contrite heart to prepare for a good Confession by doing a daily examen, which can include an Act of Contrition.
- Valuing Spiritual Healing: When the paralytic went home carrying his mat, we can imagine the surprise and joy among his family members and in his community. We too are overjoyed when we experience miraculous cures in ourselves, our loved ones, or even third-hand. But the greater miracle is the forgiveness of our sin. As we leave the confessional with snow-white souls, not much has changed in our physical bodies, but our souls have been thoroughly rehabilitated. We have been strengthened by grace and empowered to sin no more. By God’s grace, we are once again on the path to eternal life. There is no greater miracle of restoration on this side of Heaven.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you and anticipate with hope and joy a heavenly reward, as St. Paul did. With this eternal perspective, I will appreciate more deeply the sacramental forgiveness of sins, and how much my sin hurts your Sacred Heart. Thank you for the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a thorough examination of conscience in preparation for my next Confession.
For Further Reflection: Can Sins Be Forgiven in the Absence of Confession?
Ponder the words of absolution the priest prays over us in Confession: God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Maribeth Harper celebrated paying the last tuition bill for her kids’ college by writing a book for moms who have college-aged young adults, And So We Pray, Guidance for Moms with College-Aged Young Adults. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four, and grandmother of nine and counting.