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Notes on Trinity 19

by ToddPeperkorn ~ September 25th, 2008

The paralytic hears the words of pardon, and says nothing. Neither does he offer thanks in return. For he longed more for the cure of his body than of his soul. He grieved over the temporal afflictions of his enfeebled body, but had no tears for the eternal penalty of the loss of his soul. He judged that the present life was more agreeable than the future. Rightly did Christ look with favor on the faith of those who had brought him there, and ignore the foolishness of the man lying sick. So, by the merit of others’ faith, the soul of the paralytic was healed before his body. We seen, then, that Christ will come to our aid because of another’s faith, which He bestowed by grace alone. (St. Peter Chrysologos)

Christ came to take upon Himself our infirmities, and confer on us His grace; to seek what is human, to give what is divine; to receive injuries, and return them with honors; to suffer affliction, and bring healing to others. For the physician who does not suffer infirmities knows not how to cure infirmities. And he who is not weak with the weak cannot bring health to the weak. Christ therefore, had He remained within His own powers, would have had nothing in common with men. And unless He conformed to the way of life of our body, His taking of flesh would have been in vain. He therefore shared our necessities, that by these human needs He might be proved a true man and offer us divine mercy and help. (St Peter Chrysologus)

Great is the Lord, who pardons some because of the merits of others; and while subjecting some to trials, He forgives others their sins. Why should not the prayer of your fellow-man avail with you, when a servant had both the merit of pleading for another before God and the privilege of obtaining what he prayed for? Learn, you who judge, to forgive. Learn, you who are sick, to gain health through prayer. Should you be diffident because of your grave sins, seek the prayers of others, call upon the Church to pray for you, and in His regard for her, the Lord will give what He could refuse to you. (Ambrose)

These words briefly tell us what the kingdom of Christ really is. In it our hearts are touched by a sweet voice bringing us maternal and paternal words, “Your sins are forgiven.” The kingdom of Christ, then, is a kingdom in which there is consolation pure and simple, and the forgiveness of sins. It is not just a matter of words proclaimed to us setting forth future blessings, but of realized facts, as we see from the example set before us in today’s Gospel. Jesus did not merely speak these words into the paralytic’s ears. He actually forgave this man his sins and conferred real consolation upon him. (Blessed Martin Luther)

To show that He is God—both by His knowledge of things hidden and by the wonders of His works—Our Lord looks at the paralytic, and then says to His detractors: “Which is easier to say: Your sins are forgiven; or to say: Arise and walk?” With these words, Jesus gives a complete likeness of the resurrection. He heals wounds both of mind and body; He both forgives the sins of souls and makes an end of the infirmity of the flesh. So He cures the whole man. It is a great thing to forgive men their sins (for who can forgive sins but God alone?). And it is a divine work to give resurrection to their bodies. For the Lord is Himself the Resurrection. (St. Ambrose)
Consider the faith, not of the paralytic, but of his friends. They had gone to great lengths to bring their sick friend to Jesus so He could heal him. In another Gospel, it says that they even tore up the roof. Then they lowered the sick man so that he was in front of Jesus, they asked nothing of Christ, and they committed the whole thing to Him. “Seeing their faith,” Jesus turned to their sick friend. Since they demonstrated such great faith, Our Lord in turn demonstrates His own power—not first by healing the body, but by using His authority to absolve sins. He did not immediately heal the visible body. Rather, He healed first that which is invisible, the soul, by forgiving his sins. And when the soul was healed, then the body was saved. (Based on St John Chrysostom)

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