19 February 2012
2 Cor 1.18-22
Recently I visited a friend of mine who has been sick for quite a time. His wife told me that she believes that his sickness is closely connected to the fact that he refuses to forgive a brother of his and is very bitter towards him. She said ‘I believe the energy that should be available for healing his sickness is locked up in that bitterness and his refusal to forgive’.
In today’s gospel the Jews see the man’s paralysis as a punishment for some sin in his own life or that of his parents. Jesus says ‘your sins are forgiven’. The scribes are shocked. ‘This man is blaspheming. Only God can forgive sins.’ Their eyes and minds are closed to the logic of their own remark. They refuse to draw the obvious conclusion that Jesus is God. They don’t see the obvious because they don’t want to see.
In our own times, we are beginning to realise again that there can be a close link between our sicknesses and our behaviour. We know that there is a mutual influence between our thinking and our attitudes, feelings and behaviour. Many sicknesses, perhaps most, are known to be psychosomatic, the result of stress or an imbalance in our relationships with others, our work, and our environment. An aspirin may relieve a headache but it does not necessarily remove what caused it in the first place.
Sinful behaviour, too, is a source of dis-ease in our lives. Sin in all its forms harms relationships: our relationships with the Truth and Love of God, with those around us, with ourselves. It creates an imbalance in ourselves affecting mind, feelings and body. A deeply sinful person cannot be a healthy person. To be full of greed, hatred, anger, resentment, jealousy, abusive desires breaks the relationships I need to have with God, with others and with myself. The words ‘healing’, ‘health’, ‘wholeness’ and ‘holiness’ all have a common root. The whole person, one in whom all parts are in perfect harmony with God, other people, one’s environment and oneself is the truly holy person.
However, given our present knowledge, not all sickness is to be traced to sinful behaviour. Certain congenital defects, for instance, cannot be traced to the behaviour of the person, still less as a punishment. We do know that the behaviour of the mother, for instance, through the use of nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, can have serious negative effects on the development of the child within her
Today’s First Reading makes a very important point which questions the belief that past behaviour is responsible for how I am now. “Thus says the Lord: No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before.” It was wrong to see the sickness of the man as a punishment for some past sin. The only sins that matter are those of which I am at present guilty, sins that I have not repented of. God never looks at my past but only at the present. Jesus really delights in forgiving us if we but ask him.
If I am now actively a loving person – loving God, loving those around me and myself in a proper way, then there is no sin in me, no matter what I may have done in the past. God does not hold this against us. He does not keep detailed accounts of my behaviour. He only loves me and wants me to accept his love and let it flow through me. Is not that Good News? Being holy is not just saying prayers or being “pious”. It is about a wholeness and integrity that touches every aspect of our life and all our relationships.
The paralysed man does not speak, he does not ask for a healing but Jesus is truly touched by the faith of those who brought the paralysed man. He saw their determination to get their friend to him. This reminds us of the importance of the Christian community. At times when our faith isn’t very strong we are supported, ‘brought to Jesus’, by the prayers and the help of our friends in the faith whose determination to bring us to Jesus is surely rewarded by Jesus as was the paralysed man. Christianity is always a community affair. That is why we participate in the Eucharist with others.
‘Lord Jesus, we offer to you for your healing all those parts of our lives that are paralysed. Amen’.
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA