Of all the types of illness we may dread, the fear of paralysis likely ranks high on the list for us. The total inability to act for oneself creates profound needs. Unable to relieve the smallest and most basic of physical needs, the paralytic is dependent upon others. At a first quick read of today’s Gospel in Matthew, the miracle seems to be the curing of a young man’s paralytic condition. However, a subsequent look starts to unfold the depth of the true miracle.
Terms such as ‘paralyzed by fear’ or ‘paralyzed by doubt’ vividly project the reality of the physical condition into the emotional and spiritual realm. At points in our life and in our relationship to God it is likely that we have been in a spiritually paralyzed condition: paralyzed by our fears and pride, our sense of sin and inadequacies.
Faith of Friends
It is striking in the Gospel story that the young man is not the agent of his own healing. His friends carry him to Jesus, and it is the faith of the friends that Jesus mentions. No one achieves salvation alone. The paralyzed man’s friends had faith that if they carried their friend on a stretcher to the Lord that He could make thing better. How many times have we been carried at points in our life by family or friends or wise priests and other religious men and women who have set holy examples for us? How often have we, wittingly or unwittingly, been the means to carry someone else to the point where they could receive spiritual healing and reconciliation, make a turn back to God and leave their paralysis behind?
The healing of the paralytic is the capstone in a series of miracles performed by Jesus. In the preceding chapters He cured sickness, calmed a storm, and defeated evil itself by casting our devils. However, it is the forgiveness of sins that begins to set the scribes against Jesus. They know, correctly, that only God can forgive sin. Their failure of imagination was that God would love us enough to come to us Himself. The only vision they conceived of the Messiah was another warrior King like David. Jesus acknowledges, but does not validate, their doubts.
I can sympathize with the scribes when I think of the times I have thought that God could not continue to forgive my sinfulness. Are we sometimes our own scribes? Do we convince ourselves that we are unworthy of God’s Love? It is never too late for forgiveness, and it is never too late to turn back. We must realize that God’s love is not based on any merit on our part. He freely loves and forgives our sins. He asks nothing more than that we humbly make our confession to Him.
What a wonderful gift we have through the Church. The gift of confession. The ability to confess our sins directly to God and the assurance of a perpetual fresh start. My small fresh start and act against paralysis of the soul is to ensure that I make it to confession this week!