Advent Week 2 – Monday
Isaiah 35:1ff. In a glorious future they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the ransomed exiles shall return to Zion
Luke 5:17ff. Jesus heals the paralysed man, let down through the roof, for “the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins”
First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you. ”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Gospel: Luke 5:17-26
One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you. ” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the one who was paralyzed – “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home. ” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today. ”
Sounds of rejoicing
Again as on the Saturday of the first week of Advent, the prophet Isaiah sees a marvelous vision of the Lord’s redeemed people. They are streaming across the desert, which now flows with fresh water, and the head of this triumphant procession is already entering Zion, the Holy City. Jesus, in the meanwhile, is embroiled in a petty theological argument. We do not know what he was discussing, surrounded by a large group of people as well as by Pharisees and teachers of the law. We are certain that confusion and consternation set in when several men made an opening in the roof and lowered a paralytic with his mat into the middle of the crowd.
Jesus abruptly stopped the discussion but immediately stirred up an even hotter theological debate, when he said to the paralytic: “My friend, your sins are forgiven you. ” This could have been interpreted to mean nothing more than what anyone of us might say: How can there be sin in your heart when you seek the Lord this earnestly? All of us must forgive sins in this way, by recognizing the abundant charity or serious concern within our neighbour. But Jesus’ words also hinted that he was more than a human being.
For Jesus, the forgiveness of sin was linked with total concern for the other person. To show the full implication of spiritual transformation, he cured the paralytic who then “stood erect . . . picked up the mat he had been lying on and went home praising God. ” We realize as well that the sacrament of reconciliation ought not to be confined exclusively to forgiving sins, but should extend into a dialogue for reconciling the penitent with neighbour and with all aspects of life.
The spiritual apostolate of the Church and of each member of the Church cannot be faithful to Jesus if it is confined to people’s souls alone. To forgive sins requires that we be anxious to help the other person in all areas of his life. It requires that the Church take seriously the social sins of today’s world and work vigorously to remedy social injustices.
“Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God. “. . . We too ought to be instruments of love, so that our kindliness toward the physical and material needs of others will induce a charity strong enough to burn away sin. The removal of sin ought to have repercussions across the total lives of others. Sometimes we may first address the sins and faults, at other times it will be more sensible to care first for the physical needs of others, always concerned for their full human dignity.