Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Maronite Rite)

27 March 2022 at Mary, Mother of Light Maronite Church in Tequesta, Florida

Mark 2, 1-12

A question is put before us: “Which is easier to say, “Pick up your mat and walk or your sins are forgiven?” It’s a good question we might well ask of ourselves. For Jesus the answer is obvious. He can do both with ease. To be honest with you however, I would not approach someone in a wheelchair and say: “Get out of that chair and walk.” If I did, someone might put me away. I could say to anyone: “I forgive you.” At least it ought to be easier to say that than try to heal someone who can’t walk. Forgiveness is something we can do, and we have been instructed by Jesus to do so, even to forgive in his name. But we make it hard with our easy resentments and grudges. Our wounded ego gets in the way, to the point that it’s ridiculous to even ask the question because we don’t want to. It’s a lot more comforting to play the victim and be offended rather than put all of that aside and do what we can to heal a relationship. On the other hand, when we accept forgiveness from others, we recognize our own sickness and sin and find ourselves in the presence of God, whose forgiveness matters the most.  

We should take notice that Jesus calls himself, “Son of Man” here which is a very safe title used by Ezekiel to describe himself because he wanted to be seen as an ordinary person. There is a message here in this title that suggests the answer to the question. It is easier for us human beings to forgive.

Yet, that’s not all we can learn from this incident in Capernaum. We can learn the power of friendship which Jesus recognizes and affirms. It was the faith of that man’s friends that earned him the double gift that Jesus offers: forgiveness and healing. There’s nothing said about that man’s faith except for the faith he had in those friends. Imagine, laying helpless on a mat and being hoisted up onto the roof of a house and then be lowered down through a hole. Not one word is spoken by those men, but their action reveals their faith. This man’s disability is very symbolic. Guilt cripples. It hinders our worship of God and handicaps our relationships with family and friends. We have no idea if the man every says anything because at the moment Jesus forgives him the story takes an ugly turn. 

It is the first time in Mark’s Gospel that we hear of a negative response to his words and works. Up until now, it’s all be exciting and people have flocked to be near him and listen. The accusation of Blasphemy gives us a clue about what is to come.  It is a capital crime by their system, and Jesus understands the cost of forgiveness. To claim the authority to forgive sins is no light matter, and to forgive is not cheap. Yet, if we ever want or hope to bear witness to our faith, it is through our readiness to forgive others, and our willingness to be forgiven. The other great witness is found in the very act of bringing someone to Jesus even if it means climbing up on a roof, digging a hole, and taking a big risk.

So, we are left with the question about which is easier. It is a question that needs an answer from every one of us, and we are left with a remarkable example of faith in action and a the consequence of what faith can do in friendship.

Father Tom Boyer