From Miracles to the Cross

Jesus Heals the Paralytic, Mosaic at the Sant’Apollinare Nuovo – Ravenna. © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0

13th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year II)

Amos 7:10-17; Matthew 9:1-8

The paralytic and his friends in the Gospels show us that we are never alone in our journey of faith. Together with our fellow pilgrims, we carry one another on a stretcher to Jesus. Hidden prayers are rising like incense from unknown caves and crannies throughout the world in the bosom of the Father. Mary, the saints and the angels also surround us by their love.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”

Spiritual healing accompanied bodily healing; Jesus first reconciled the infirm man to God as God, healing the primordial wound. Hearts blind to divine realities saw only a man in Jesus, and thus charged him with megalomania.

At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. 

For Jesus, forgiving and healing proceeded from the same source; neither was “easier.” But empirical humanity rarely rouses from its spiritual slumber without a dazzling display of power or a dramatic crisis: When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

Yet power and crises have limited long-term effect. The miracles of Jesus and the warnings of the prophets did not bring about lasting conversion or prevent their murders. Something deeper needed to be effected in the hearts of persons beyond sight and hearing. 

Those who mocked Jesus at the foot of the Cross challenged him, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). If Jesus had come down with power and might, he would have surrendered to his taunters and shown true weakness. Giving up his life out of love was paradoxically real, divine strength: “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

The ego is a hard nut to crack. A snapshot of Amos and Amaziah, and Jesus and the scribes, show God knocking on the shell of the “hard hearted” and the “stiff-necked,” and trying to enter their hearts. Miracles and words fell like rain on the shell, but did not penetrate to the interior spirit. The Cross alone cracked the ego and broke down the dam that let the “rivers of living water” flow in.

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