Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 19th 2012 - Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25
Psalms 41:2-5, 13-14
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12 (see also “Who is the Son of Man?”)

God’s Great ‘Amen’
Today’s Gospel makes explicit what has been implied in preceding weeks. Namely, that in healing the sick and casting out demons, Jesus is manifesting God’s forgiveness of His people’s sins.

The gospel relates two contrary responses to Jesus' ministry. One group illustrates how far the hearts of some have strayed from God, because their theological stumbling blocks keep them from recognizing who Jesus is and from allowing him to extend his healing forgiveness to others.

The other group is so open to Jesus that they crowd around him, are utterly astounded by his words and deeds, and are led to glorify God because of them. Truth be told, both contrary responses are present today, in the world and in our own hearts.

We hear in today's First Reading that, "They had wearied of God, refused to call on His name." Despite that, God promised to remember their sins no more.

Sin is often equated with sickness in Scripture (see Psalm 103:39). And today’s Psalm reads like a foretelling of the Gospel scene - the man is helped on his sickbed, healed of his sins, and made able to stand before the Lord forever.

The scribes know that God alone can forgive sins. That’s why they accuse Jesus of blasphemy. He appears to be claiming equality with God. But today's Gospel  turns on this recognition. The scene marks the first time in the gospels that Jesus commends the faith of a person or persons who come to Him (see Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:20).

With the eyes of faith, the paralytic and his friends can see what the scribes cannot - Jesus’ divine identity. He reveals himself as the “Son of Man” - alluding to the mysterious heavenly figure the prophet Daniel saw receive kingship over all the earth (see Daniel 7:13-14).

His retort to the scribes even echoes what God said to Pharaoh when He sent plagues upon Egypt: “That you may know that I am the Lord” (see Exodus 8:18; 9:14).

As Paul says in today’s Epistle, Jesus is God’s great Amen. Amen means “so be it.” In Jesus, God has said, “So be it,” fulfilling all His promises throughout salvation history.

We are the new people He formed to announce His praise. He calls each of us what Jesus calls the paralytic - His child (see 2 Corinthians 6:18).

But do we share this man’s faith? To what lengths are we willing to go to encounter Jesus? How much are we willing to sacrifice so that our friends, too, might hear His saving word?

Who is the Son of Man?
Jesus calls himself the “Son of Man” in the Gospel for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (see Mark 2:10). What does that mean?

The term appears more than 100 times in Scripture, often as another way of saying “man” or “human” (see Numbers 23:19; Psalm 8:4).

But Jesus is referring to the prophet Daniel’s mysterious vision of “one like a son of man.” In Daniel’s vision, the son of man travels on the clouds of heaven and is presented before God. He receives from God “an everlasting dominion” and “nations and peoples of every language serve him” (see Daniel 7:13-14).

The Son of Man is the king of heaven and earth, as Jesus makes clear. The son has authority to forgive sins (see Mark 2:10), is Lord of the sabbath (see Mark 2:28), and will judge people according to their deeds (see John 5:27; Matthew 25:31).

As the Son of Man, Jesus is enthroned in heaven, seated at the right of the Father - as He promised He would be (see Mark 14:62; Acts 7:56).

Connecting the Gospel
to the first reading: Despite the Israelite's infidelity and their having become awearisome burden for God, God nevertheless comes to deliver them and forgive their sins. The divine compassion and mercy described by Isaiah are revealed in Jesus, the incarnate healing and forgiveness of God.
to experience: We can be "hidebound": so trapped in our own way of thinking or self-righteousness that we are unable to entertain any new way of seeing things or to receive anyone who holds contrary positions. In order for God to break whatever binds our minds and hearts, we must be open to  God.  This is very timely for me . . . . I must do what my priest mentioned to me in confession . . . . take time to prayerfully listen for God.

Scott Hahn, Ph.D. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 12th 2012 - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Thank you to Scott Hahn for his insights:

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45

Made Clean
In the Old Testament, leprosy is depicted as punishment for disobedience of God’s commands (see Numbers 12:12-15; 2 Kings 5:27; 15:5).

Considered “unclean” - unfit to worship or live with the Israelites, lepers are considered “stillborn,” the living dead (see Numbers 12:12). Indeed, the requirements imposed on lepers in today’s First Reading - rent garments, shaven head, covered beard - are signs of death, penance, and mourning (see Leviticus 10:6; Ezekiel 24:17).

So there’s more to the story in today’s Gospel than a miraculous healing.
When Elisha, invoking God’s name, healed the leper, Naaman, it proved there was a prophet in Israel (see 2 Kings 5:8). Today’s healing reveals Jesus as far more than a great prophet - He is God visiting His people (see Luke 7:16).

Only God can cure leprosy and cleanse from sin (see 2 Kings 5:7); and only God has the power to bring about what He wills (see Isaiah 55:11; Wisdom 12:18).

The Gospel scene has an almost sacramental quality about it.
Jesus stretches out His hand - as God, by His outstretched arm, performed mighty deeds to save the Israelites (see Exodus 14:6; Acts 4:30). His ritual sign is accompanied by a divine word (“Be made clean”). And, like God’s word in creation (“Let there be”), Jesus’ word “does” what He commands (see Psalm 33:9).

The same thing happens when we show ourselves to the priest in the sacrament of penance. On our knees like the leper, we confess our sins to the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And through the outstretched arm and divine word spoken by His priest, the Lord takes away the guilt of our sin.
Like the leper we should rejoice in the Lord and spread the good news of His mercy. We should testify to our healing by living changed lives. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we should do even the littlest things for the glory of God and that others may be saved.