Saturday, January 16, 2016

Healed Through the Faith of Others

This passage from St. Mark is one of my favorite passages in Holy Scripture:

“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to the paralytic—‘I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.’ And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” [1]

First, one of the main things that is so magnificent about this passage is at the beginning in which the evangelist gets us to focus more on the friends of the paralytic than upon the paralytic himself with the usage of the pronoun, “they.”  As a result of the pronoun, he gives us the impression that Jesus is healing the paralytic on the grounds of the faith of the friends and not on the faith of the paralytic.  Now, one may correctly infer that the paralytic had faith also, but that would, in a sense make the passage awkward, for this reason:  Then it would give the impression that are times when one’s faith is not enough; it requires the faith of multiple people.  How many?  This would hinder our faith, not increase it.  With the evangelist telling us that Jesus healed the paralytic as a result of the faith of the friends, this invigorates us to pray for the salvation of others, especially of our children and are relatives.  When I was a Protestant, this is one of the passages that caused me to believe in infant baptism.

This is not a solitary passage in which we find Jesus healing someone on the faith of another, e.g. the centurion, the Syro-Phonician woman, the man with a demon-possessed son, etc.  St. James tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

Secondly, in our times of trials and temptations, times when, perhaps, our faith seems weak, or times of spiritual dryness, we can have confidence when we ask others to pray for us.  This is especially true when we pray that the Saints intercede for us.  We are allowing others, including the Saints, to enlarge their love of neighbor by having them pray for us.

Another part of the passage that projects itself into my mind is when our Lord refers to Himself as “Son of man.”  Jesus knew that, when He tells the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” the scribes would think, “This is blasphemy; no one can forgive sins but God alone.”  Now, one may surmise that Jesus was telling them that He was the Son of God.”  Although it is possible that He might have been telling them that, because it is true that God alone can forgive sins, He did not say, “That you may know that the Son of God has authority on earth to forgive sins,” etc.; He said to them, “That you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” etc.

One has to wonder, “What was going through the minds of His audience when they heard those words?”  Did they equate “Son of man” with “Son of God”?  Actually, I think the majority of them probably perceived Jesus only as a great prophet.  They, probably, also were questioning in their minds why this prophet would say, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”  Not only regarding the audience of Jesus at the time, what about the people the evangelist was writing to at the time, and what about us today?  They knew, and we know, that Jesus is the Son of God and Son of man because He has two natures.  Therefore, is this superfluous, especially to us today, because we believe in the Creed?  No, it is not.

It is not superfluous because we know that the Catholic Church is the Body of Christ.  We know that the Catholic Church is the Kingdom of God.  Hence, when Jesus referred to Himself as “Son of man” in our passage, He is reminding us that He is giving authority to His Body, the Church, to forgive sins, through the Bishops, who delegate that authority to the priests.  He reiterates this through St. John when He says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  This invigorates our confidence when we go to Confession that our sins are truly forgiven when the priest absolves us, for it truly Christ and not the priest who is forgiving our sins.

This passage, for those reasons, and more, give me much comfort.  This passage causes me to love Christ more because He keeps Himself three-dimensional for us through the Catholic Church.  We are three-dimensional beings, and He keeps Himself three-dimensional to increase our faith and our love for God and neighbor.  He keeps Himself “real” for us.  This also causes me to love the Catholic Church more.  If we love Jesus, we have to love His Body, the Catholic Church.  Because of the Mass (the prayers of others:  Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Saints and angels, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant), we are healed by the faith of others.
--Tommy Turner

[1] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain), The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, (New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, 1994), Mk 2:1–12.