By Canon Wulfran Lebocq
Saint Matthew’s gospel today relates the miracle of a man stricken with palsy. He could not walk, but Our Lord healed him.
The numerous miracles performed by Jesus have always impressed the Christian community throughout the ages. They constitute what we call a motive of credibility. This means that Jesus’ claim to be God is rendered more believable in our eyes due to the fact that he performed acts that are impossible or unknown to man. His miracles lend credence to all his other claims.
Very often though, our contemplation of the various miracles related by Holy Scripture stops at the physical healings. We are mesmerized by the paralyzed people who walk…the blind that were made to see…and even the dead that were called back to life. This gives us hope many times for the healing of our own physical or psychological defects – and this hope is not a bad thing. The healings shown in Holy Scripture give us every reason to expect that the power of Christ heal us and those that we love.
However, today’s Gospel invites us to consider more profoundly Jesus Christ’s mission to Humankind. His actions here reveal that his primary mission is spiritual.
We will notice this by the first thing that Jesus does when he beholds the sick man lying on the stretcher. He says: “Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”…Thy sins are forgiven thee…Upon seeing the wretched state of this man, His first action is not to heal his physical infirmity, but to heal his spiritual infirmity…that is his SINS! And Our Lord indicates that the sick man’s primary joy should be that his sins are forgiven when he says “Be of good heart son.” He is telling him to be glad, to be happy, for God is here to heal you of your most profound ailment, that which is the root of all bad things in your life – that of sin.
It is only after the incredulous Pharisees thought Him blasphemous to claim to forgive this man’s sins that Jesus heals the physical malady. This he does to indicate to them that he indeed has the power to forgive sins, a power that is reserved to God alone and infinitely more valuable than bodily health!
So, what does this mean for us? This means that we are to first search out spiritual healing from God before insisting on other petitions. Remember what our Lord said elsewhere in Holy Scripture, namely: “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Luke 12:31). This explains Jesus’ actions towards the paralyzed young man. He first administers to him a healing that will save him from spiritual damnation, which is a permanent and irrevocable damnation. This is what the Kingdom of God is about: Surrendering ourselves to God, asking his pardon for our offenses – our sins – and praying for perseverance that will make us happy, noble, joyful and acceptable in His eyes. Once this is done, He sees to his physical wounds and pains provided that such a cure would be beneficial to our salvation. Our physical healing is only important to God if it provokes our conversion to him.
Most of us are, in fact, in constant search of remedies for temporal ills that we experience personally or that we see in the surrounding society. We may experience a chronic illness, one of our friends experiences a similar illness, we think of the poor people who live on the street, the people addicted to drugs wandering around ever in search of a new high, the people without jobs and on and on. However, we often neglect our spiritual healing.
Does this mean that Jesus is indifferent to our physical suffering, to that of our neighbour, or to that of society?…NO! He is trying to tell us, my dear Faithful, that he is here to save our souls from eternal ruin! Remember what He says to Pontius Pilate while being interrogated in the Praetorium, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” Therefore, If his kingdom is not of this world, his primary work will not consist in making us comfortable or content here on Earth, on making us wealthy or in giving us the robust health of a Roman Gladiator, but in preparing us for the eternal peace and the eternal bliss of Heaven. This means renouncing sin and amending our lives!
This involves humbly avowing our sins and our unworthiness before His infinite majesty. This means telling Jesus: ”I’m wrong…I’ve done some stupid things…I’m a mess, but I want to do better. I want to be perfect as you have asked me to be.” Please help me! This is what he wants. The Psalms tell us, “a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps. 50:19)
If you are suffering from a physical ailment or if you know of someone else who does, by all means, pray for healing, God wants us to tell him about everything that is bothering us, but remember first to petition the Lord for spiritual welfare, for spiritual healing and holiness. This is far more important for it concerns one’s eternal salvation. For, what would a man profit if he had the best health in this life, the best work situation…if in the end it only made him physically comfortable and his soul lukewarm, forgetful of his need for God?
So, my dear Faithful let us renew or resolution to do virtuous acts this week and to avoid those sins that we habitually commit. Pray to the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, Saint Michael and the saints for their assistance. Ask him to purify and heal our souls as he did to the young man in today’s Gospel.