Jun 30 – First Martyrs of the See of Rome
These holy men and women are also called the “Protomartyrs of Rome”. They were accused of burning Rome by Nero, who burned Rome to cover his own crimes. Some martyrs were burned as living torches at evening banquets, some crucified, and others were fed to wild animals. These martyrs died before Sts. Peter and Paul, and are called “disciples of the Apostles. . . whom the Holy Roman church sent to their Lord before the Apostles’ death”.
“Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.”
The gospel story of Jesus healing the paralytic not only teaches us about the power and authority of Jesus to liberate people from the bondage of sin, but also the love, mercy and pity that the Lord has on all who call upon His name. Was it really easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” or “Rise up and walk”? Rationally analysing the impact of these two phrases might lead one to conclude that the former is indeed easier to say. “Your sins are forgiven”; those words could not be put to any outward test, and only the consciousness of the sinner could attest to their power. It was a bolder and a harder thing to risk the utterance of words which challenged an immediate and visible fulfilment; as in the case of a physical and miraculous healing. Yet, Christ granted both spiritual and physical healing to the paralytic – iterating the fact that he is not merely a miracle healer nor a prophet, but in his divine being, since only God can forgive sins. The unbelief of the scribes and the people gathered prompted Jesus to showcase the healing to encompass the two realms of influence — the spiritual and physical — knowing well that men would not believe in the profession of the former without an accompaniment by visible results in the latter.
Many reading the gospel today might also allude that the paralysis was a result of sin. Indeed, sin has its consequences and is the source of evils, but attributing misfortunes to sin is an inadequate generalisation and over-simplification. In John 9:2-3, Christ’s disciples thought that a man had a physical defect at birth due to his own sin or his parents’ sin. Jesus replied that neither had the man nor his parents sinned. He was born blind so that “the works of God might be displayed in him”. The conventional perception that disabilities or sicknesses are direct consequences of sin is such a narrow worldview that it trivialises God’s plan for humanity. In today’s account, Jesus sought to reveal that his coming into the world is to save people from their sins and that remission of sins is a never-failing consequence of our faith. With sins being forgiven, bodily distempers can do no real or lasting harm.
Sin may be pardoned, yet the sickness not be removed; the sickness may be removed, yet the sin not pardoned; but if we have the comfort of peace with God, with the comfort of recovery from sickness, this makes the healing a mercy indeed. This though, is no encouragement to sin. If we bring our sins to Jesus, we allow ourselves the opportunity to be delivered from them. Nonetheless, this isn’t an easy feat. Coming to Christ knowing full well our own sinfulness and inadequacies requires a lot of courage; it is aptly described in today’s gospel in the way Jesus greets the paralytic. Many have turned away from God simply because they felt that their wrongdoings were unforgivable and unworthy to receive Him. Certainly, coming to Christ embracing one’s sins with darlings and delight, and with the intention to retain them is a gross mistake and miserable delusion. However, with the proper examination of motives and ensuring there is no dissension with Christ teachings, coming to Christ and allowing Him to work in us is the only way to free ourselves from the bondages of sin. The passage on the healing of the paralytic is, in a way, similar to coming to Christ in holy communion during Mass. What Paul described in 1 Corinthians on partaking of the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner relates to the examination of self for wilful indulgence and an uncontrite heart. Many Catholics do not feel worthy of taking communion because of their sins. However, we should recognise that the church is for sinners and none of us are truly worthy except Christ alone. The sacraments of communion and confession do not justify the committing of sins, but serve as avenues for the sinner to repent and reconcile with God. The war against sin is a never-ending battle, but Catholics should not withhold themselves from receiving Christ if they have been trying to repent but are struggling to gain victory over sins. The struggle against sin is an admission that we must depend upon Christ and his grace. It is precisely in this struggle that is a vindication of our position with Christ and a manifestation of our need for communion as an act of dependence upon His work and grace.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Dylan Tan)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for all those who are suffering physically and mentally, that You may liberate us from the bondages of sin and misery and grant us healing in accordance with your will. Forgive us of all our wrongdoings for the sake of your Son, our Lord Jesus, so that we may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your Almighty Name. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for all the blessings that you have brought into our lives. Help us to recognise that every human being is a wonderful and unique creation of yours, each with its own gifts and purpose on this earthly journey. May you constantly remind us to love and treat one another with respect and dignity.
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