Monday of Week 2 of Advent – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 5:17-26

Today’s First Reading from Isaiah expresses the excitement and anticipation of God’s coming in our midst. The Gospel is an example of this promise being realised. It is Luke’s version of the healing of a paralysed man who can only reach Jesus by being lowered through the roof of the house. The efforts which the sick man’s friends make to get him to Jesus is an indication of their tremendous faith and confidence in Jesus.

However, the man may have been somewhat surprised to hear the words of Jesus:

Friend, your sins are forgiven you.

That was not what he came for. He hoped something could be done about his paralysis. But the Pharisees and Scribes present were even more shocked:

Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Of course, they were perfectly right, but they did not put two and two together and identify the presence of God in Jesus.

So Jesus asks them:

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?

Naturally, the first is easier to say. But to show that Jesus has the authority really to forgive sin, he says to the paralysed man:

I say to you, stand up and take your stretcher and go to your home.

Immediately, the man stands up before them all, picks up his mat and goes home.

To understand what is happening here we have to realise the perceived close relationship in those days between sin and sickness. Sickness, especially something chronic like paralysis or blindness, was often presumed to be the result of, or punishment for sin. So if Jesus can totally remove the sickness, it must mean the sin which caused it has gone too. Jesus can forgive sin.

We might not express things quite the same way now, but there may be some truth in the belief that there is a relationship between sickness and behaviour. Many people are sick and even in hospital because their bodies are revealing symptoms of ‘dis-ease’ which has its roots in their hearts and minds and feelings. The healing power of Jesus, which we all need, has to extend to every part of our being – body, mind, heart and in our relationships with others.

There are intimations in this story of resurrection and new life when the man now stands up – something he could not do before. And, now able to walk, he goes home, that is, he goes to the place where he belongs.

We too need the healing of Christ which removes the things which paralyse or handicap us in our following him. We need to stand anew in the Life that he gives and then find our way to our true home, which is to be with him.

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