Friday 14th January
Hebrews 4:1ff. Through obedient faith, directed especially towards Jesus, we enter into our “rest” – a state of fulfilment that echoes God’s celebration of creation, on the seventh day.
Mark 2:1ff. A crowd gathers round Jesus, at his lakeside home in Capernaum; he heals a paralytic after first forgiving his sins.
Getting the balance right
Several facets converge in today’s readings, balancing one another. Such a multi-faceted view is needed, in order to achieve a harmonious spirituality in our personal lives and in our ministry towards others. Jesus exemplifies at Capernaum how to adapt ourselves to dramatic change and to settle peacefully in God’s rest. There is a gathering of many persons at the home of Peter’s mother-in-law, presumably Jesus’ headquarters at Capernaum. We may see here a symbol of church unity, a bond that does more than unite us among ourselves but enables all of us together to be one with Jesus. From him, within the setting of Peter’s home, God’s word came to them.
Yet an unusual incident then takes place, which manifests extraordinary ingenuity and persistent determination. The four persons who are bringing a paralytic to Jesus and cannot get through the crowd, proceed to carry the man to the roof, make a hole and lower the mat on which the paralytic was lying directly before Jesus. The incident not only manifests creative tenacity but also a lovely form of helpfulness and dependency. Without the paralytic the healthy people would never have gotten this close to Jesus, and without his friends the paralytic was unable toget anywhere.
The supreme moment comes when Jesus re-creates paradise in healing the paralytic and restoring him to a new state of innocence: Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again’? To enter into God’s rest and to avoid the temptation of grumbling and jealousy, there must be forgiveness – not only from Jesus, but also from each of us. We are all commanded, it is not a choice to forgive our neighbour if we wish to be forgiven by God. Such is the prayer each day in the Our Father. With such forgiveness, we remain united as one people of God and we avoid the excesses of our greatness. We can be one people, strong in our opposition to any infidelity and yet never succumbing to jealousy, power plays, sensuality and excessive materialism. We can cross the bridge of change and support one another in the difficulties of change, patient with weakness, forgiving towards deliberate sins, capable of rallying round again in a bond of love and hope.
First Reading: Hebrews 4:1-5, 11
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “As in my anger I swore, ‘They shall not enter my rest,'” though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day – “today” – saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Gospel: Mark 2:1-12
When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”