Homily for Jan. 13th, 2017: Mark 2:1-12.
“Child, your sins are forgiven,” Jesus says as he looks with tender love at the paralyzed man lying before him in today’s gospel reading. Jesus is not saying that anyone who is ill is being punished for sin. But his words suggest that Jesus saw in this particular man a spiritual burden that needed to be loosed before the man could be healed physically.
“We have never seen anything like this,” the onlookers exclaim in astonishment as they see the formerly paralyzed man pick up his mat and walk. For Mark, the gospel writer, the true miracle, however, is not the man’s physical cure, but the spiritual healing of forgiveness.
Perhaps you’re thinking: “What is so miraculous about forgiveness? Don’t we forgive others every day?” Thank God, we do. Between our forgiveness and God’s, however, there is this great difference. When we forgive, there is always a memory of the injury done, a “skeleton in the closet.” The wrong needs only to be repeated, or one like it, for the memory to be revived.
God doesn’t have any closets. And even if he did, there wouldn’t be any skeletons there. God’s forgiveness is total. “Your sins I remember no more,” God tells us through the prophet. (43:25) Here’s a story about that.
A pious woman, given to visions, went to her bishop to tell him that God had asked her to tell the bishop to build a shrine to Jesus’ mother Mary. The bishop was understandably skeptical. “Go back to God,” he told his visitor, and ask him to tell you my worst sin as a young man. If the Lord gives you the correct answer, we’ll see about building this shrine.” When the woman returned, the bishop asked her: “What did God say was my worst sin as a young man?” The woman replied: “He said he couldn’t remember.”
It’s only a story. But it is based in reality – a reality that is the real miracle in this story of the paralyzed man: that there can be, that there is, a forgiveness so complete that not even the memory of the sin remains. Jesus brings us this total forgiveness. The one who brings us this forgiveness is the Son of the God who tells his people, through Isaiah: “Your sins I remember no more.” (Is. 43:25)