7th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle B)

Readings:
Isaiah 43:16a, 18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
Psalm 41:2-5, 13-14
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Penance and Forgiveness of Sin
Penance is the virtue or disposition of heart by which a person repents of personal sins and is converted to God; it is also the punishment by which one atones for sins committed.  Penance is the pathway to God's forgiveness and restoration of fellowship.

In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites there will be a return from exile in Babylon.  It will be a new exodus from bondage after they have paid their penance for their sins of rebellion against God.  And after their penance is paid, God promises He will remember their sins no more.  The plea for God's forgiveness is the petition in today's psalm: "Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you."  And St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that God is faithful to His promises.  He has put His seal upon us, and through Jesus Christ has anointed us as His.

In today's Gospel, St. Mark tells the story of the healing of a paralytic.  The point of the story is that Jesus isn't just a miracle worker but that His miracles are signs of the mysterious reality of His true identity as the Son of God who has the authority to forgive sins and heal the soul as well as the body.  Jesus' mighty deeds during His earthly ministry prefigure the great miracle of God's kingdom that is coming with Jesus' death and resurrection, and the authority He will give His Church to forgive sins in God's name.

The First Reading Isaiah Isaiah 43:16a, 18-19, 21-22, 24b-25 ~ God's Forgiveness
16a Thus says the LORD: 18 Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; 19 see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.  21 The people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.   22 Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob, for you grew weary of me, O Israel.  24b You burdened me with your sins, and wearied me with your crimes.  25 It is I, I, who wiped out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.

The mission of the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah was to condemn the covenant people's idol worship and apostasy from the covenant they formed with Yahweh at Sinai (Ex 24:3-11) and to call the people to repentance before the day of Yahweh's judgment (Is 6:1-13).  He warned them if they refused to repent and return to God and His covenant that Yahweh's divine judgment will come against them, resulting in their conquest by a foreign power and their exile from the Promised Land (Lev 26:4, 31-33; Dt 28:15, 1 Kng 14:15).  But speaking Yahweh's words of mercy, the prophet also promises the covenant people that the day will come when the penance for their sins is completed.  When that day comes, they should forget the past because God will make a new "exodus" to bring them back to their homeland.  When that time comes, God will wipe out their sins and remember them no more.

It is the same grace and mercy God offers us in the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation.  When we come to confess our sins and make atonement through an act of repentance, God forgives our sin that is washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ.  He restores us to fellowship with Him and with the covenant community.  His act of mercy is a "new exodus" out of sin and into the embrace of divine grace.

Responsorial Psalm 41:2-5, 13-14 ~ A Plea for God's Pardon
Response: "Lord, heal my soul, for I have sinned against you."
2 Blessed is the one who has regard for the lowly and the poor; in the day of misfortune the LORD will deliver him.  3 The LORD will keep and preserve him; and make him blessed on the earth, and not give him over to the will of his enemies.
Response:
4 The LORD will help him on his sickbed, he will take away all his ailment when he is ill.  5 Once I said, "O LORD, have pity on me; heal me, though I have sinned against you."
Response:
13 But because of my integrity you sustain me and let me stand before you forever.  14 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from all eternity.  Amen.  Amen.
Response:

The psalm, attributed to David, begins with a blessing for the person who addresses the condition of the poor or weak, because those deeds of mercy will count in his favor.  God will reward him by protecting and assisting him in times of trouble and will hear his confession of sin when the person calls upon God for forgiveness (verses 2-5).  The psalmist has confidence that in his good works and his obedience to God he will be forgiven his sins.  God will sustain him in his life's journey and allow him to one day stand in the presence of the God of all eternity.  The double "amen" at the end of verse 14 is further proof of the psalmist's confidence in the mercy and forgiveness of God.

The Second Reading 2 Corinthians 1:18-22 ~ We are God's Anointed
18 As God is faithful, our word to you is not "yes" and "no."  19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not "yes" and "no," but "yes" has been in him.  20 For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him; therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.  21 But the one who gives us security with you in Christ and who anointed us is God; 22 he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

St. Paul calls on God to be his witness to the sincerity of his words and actions and to his being a man of his word.  He cannot act otherwise since he preaches Jesus Christ and follows Him.  Christ is absolutely truthful and faithful and His word is always "yes" to the promises of God.  In this passage, St. Paul refers to the promises made by the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father who has anointed us with grace and established us in God the Son, through the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  Paul uses three different expressions: "anointed", "put His seal", and giving the Holy Spirit "as a first installment" or guarantee to describe the way God acts in the soul of the Christian:

  1. In Baptism the Christian is spiritually "anointed" with grace and incorporated into Christ.
  2. The Christian is then "sealed" for he no longer belongs to himself but has become the property of Christ (slaves in the ancient world were often branded with the mark of their owner).
  3. Together with grace, the Christian receives the Holy Spirit as an "installment"—a pledge of the gifts he will receive in eternal life.

Relying on Christ's faithfulness, Christians are able to say "Amen" ("So be it"), by which they adhere fully to Jesus' teachings as passed on by the Apostles and their successors, like Sts Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, who shepherd the faithful of the New Covenant Church.  From the earliest gatherings of Christians, the "Amen" ("so be it") has been announced at the end of the Church's public prayers (cf. 1 Cor 14:16).

The Gospel of Mark 2:1-12 ~ Jesus Heals a Paralytic and Forgives His Sins
1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. 2 [And at once = kai euthus] Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.  3 They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  4 Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.  After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, "Child, your sins are forgiven."  6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, 7 "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?"  8 Jesus immediately [euthus] knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?  9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'?  10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" 11 –he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home." 12 He rose, picked up his mat at once [euthus], and went away in the sight of everyone.  They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

Notice that St. Mark uses his key word, "euthus," in verses 2, 8 and 12, an adverb meaning "immediately," "at once," or "now."  Mark uses the adverb 47 times in his 675 verses; it is used more in Mark than in the rest of the New Testament verses combined.  This episode takes place in the home of Simon-Peter.

In Mark's story, four men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing.  They were so determined to get Jesus' help for their friend that they removed the roof of Peter's house to lower the man down into the room where Jesus was staying.  When Jesus saw the faith of the men, he said to the paralyzed man: "Child, your sins are forgiven" (verse 5).  Notice that Jesus was impressed by the faith paralyzed man's friends.  St. Mark makes a significant statement in verse 5 concerning the faith of the man's friends. It wasn't the paralytic's faith that generated Jesus' healing; it was the faith of his friends.  We should never take for granted the power of our petitions made on behalf of someone else.  Such prayers have always been important in the life of the people of God in the Old and New Testaments.  The first petition for God's intervention in the life of someone else is found in Genesis 18:22-32 when Abraham prayed on behalf of the doomed people of Sodom.

In the Church, we call prayers on behalf of others "prayers of intercession."  Intercessory prayer is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did during His earthly ministry, and He continues to be the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men and women, especially sinners (Rom 8:34; 1 Tim 2:5-8; 1 Jn 2:1).   "He is 'able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.'  The Holy Spirit 'himself intercedes for us ... and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.'" (CCC 2634-36, 2647; also see Heb 7:25; Rom 8:26-27).  So important is the Church's example of intercessory prayer as a community that it is part of the celebration of the Mass.

Notice that in Mark 2:5 that Jesus linked the man's condition to his sins.  Jesus may have been remarking on the cultural assumption that there was a link between sin and sickness (Jn 9:2), but it is more likely that He is demonstrating His authority to heal body and soul.  Some of the scribes, who are also teachers of the Law, accuse Jesus of blasphemy for claiming the authority to forgive sins in verse 7.  Under the Law of Moses, blasphemy was defined as misusing the Divine Name.  See Leviticus 24:15-16 where the penalty for blasphemy against the Divine Name (YHWH, usually translated as "Yahweh") was death and Numbers 15:30 where the penalty for persistent sin in claiming God's prerogatives was excommunication.  The scribes believe Jesus has usurped God's divine prerogative by declaring the man's sins are forgiven.  Their question: "Who but God alone can forgive sins?" (verse 7b) is the very question that people must answer to understand Jesus' true identity—then and now!

The miracle story of the paraplegic and his friends reveals another power Jesus possesses in addition to healing the sick, His power over nature, and His authority to forgive sins and that is His power to read minds and hearts/intentions (verse 8).  His power to read minds and hearts/intentions; it is a divine power attributed only to God (see Ps 7:10/9; 2 Chr 6:30).

In verse 10 when Jesus declares that He has the authority to forgiven sins, He refers to Himself as the "Son of Man."  It is Jesus' favorite title for Himself, and it is the first of 14 times Jesus refers to Himself in this way in Mark's Gospel (He uses this title for Himself 30 times in the Gospel of Matthew).  In Aramaic (common language of Jesus' time), bar'nishah, "son of man" meant "a human being" or "one descended from Adam."  But the use of "Son of Man" in this passage is meant not only to identify Jesus in His humanity but to recall the vison of the divine Messianic King the prophet Daniel saw in a vision: "I was gazing into the visions of the night when I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, as it were a Son of Man.  He came to the One most venerable and was led into His presence.  On Him was conferred rule, honor, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed" (Dan 7:13-14).  Besides the Daniel passage where the "Son of Man" title refers to the divine Messiah who looks like a man, the expression is only found in the Old Testament for a human man in the book of Ezekiel where God addressed Ezekiel as "son of man" 93 times, beginning in Ezekiel 2:1, and one other time in the book of Daniel where God calls Daniel "son of man":  "Son of man, He said to me, understand this: the vision shows the time of the End" (Dan 8:17). 

But it is Jesus' use of the title "Son of Man" together with the quote from Daniel 7:13 at His trial that will lead to His condemnation by the Jewish Sanhedrin for the sin of blasphemy and the sentence of death (Mt 26:64-66; Mk 14:62-64; Lk 22:69-71).  Part of the key to understanding Jesus' use of the title is not only in the Book of Daniel but also in its use outside of the Gospels where the title "Son of Man" is only found in the New Testament in three other places (underlining added):

  1. Acts 7:56 ~ At the moment of St. Stephen's martyrdom he says: "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
  2. Revelation 1:13 ~ In St. John's first vision in the Book of Revelation, he sees Jesus: ... "Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstand 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle length robe, with a gold sash around his chest."
  3. Revelation 14:14 ~ St. John's last set of visions of the Christ as the Divine King and Judge in the heavenly Sanctuary in the Book of Revelation: "Then I looked and there was a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud one who looked like a son of man, with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand."

For Jesus the title "Son of Man" acknowledges His humanity but in a unique way apart of other men, since He is both fully man and fully God.  He hears our pleas for forgiveness, when we call on Him as His anointed people, and He has the power to lead us on a new exodus out of the exile of bondage to sin into the true Promised Land of Heaven.

Catechism References:
Isaiah 43:19 (CCC 711)
2 Corinthians 1 (CCC 2627); 1:20 (CCC 1065); 1:21-22 (CCC 1274); 1:21 (CCC 695, 735); 1:22 (CCC 698, 1107, 1296)
Mark 2:1-12 (CCC 1421); 2:5-12 (CCC 1502, 1503); 2:5 (CCC 1441, 1484, 2616); 2:7 (CCC 430, 574, 589, 1441); 2:8 (CCC 473); 2:10 (CCC 1441)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015