bible blog 1164

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news

LAMPEDUSA’S CHILDREN RESPOND TO THE TRAGEDY

"we must love them like brothers and make sure this cannot happen again"

“we must love them like brothers and make sure this catastrophe cannot happen again”

Matthew 9:1-8

New English Translation (NET)

Healing and Forgiving a Paralytic

9 After getting into a boat he crossed to the other side and came to his own town. Just then some people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Have courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the experts in the law said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!” When Jesus perceived their thoughts he said, “Why do you respond with evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then he said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” And he stood up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were afraid and honoured God who had given such authority to men.

Matthew was using Mark’s gospel as his source. Here is Mark’s version.

Mark 2:1-12

New English Translation (NET)

Healing and Forgiving a Paralytic

paralytic(2)2 Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer any room, not even by the door, and he preached the word to them. Some people came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Jesus. Then, after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the experts in the law were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds: “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Now immediately, when Jesus realized in his spirit that they were contemplating such thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 12 And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

It’s easy to see what Matthew loses by editing out most of the vivid detail given by Mark: the eager trust of the friends of the paralytic which leads them to break into the house of healing, which is identified as Jesus’ home; and the responsive authority of Jesus which evokes the exclamation,, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”. Mark presents Jesus as a whirlwind of life and liberation.

But what does Matthew gain by his quieter account? He presents Jesus as the “Son of Man”, that is, the prophesied one (Daniel Chapter 7) who comes from God to bring the kingdom with a human face. He exercises God’s generous acceptance and healing to demonstrate that all human beings can and should exercise it. That’s why the crowd in Matthew’s version give thanks to God for giving such authority to men. Matthew gives more encouragement than Mark to a Christian ministry of healing. The belief that God has given this power to human beings has been one of the contributory factors in the development of modern, scientific medicine.

For Mark, Jesus is always the crucified and risen Son of God, who smashes though all barriers, including the barrier of death, to open up God’s freedom  for humanity. He cannot be described by any terms that separate God and humanity. For Matthew, Jesus is the human presence of God’s healing wisdom on earth; others can learn God’s way from him. 

St. Matthew and the angel who inspires his words

St. Matthew and the angel who inspires his words

In the rich world today we read and watch so many stories that they have become trivial entertainments to consume and dispose of. The Gospels are, like the stories in the Jewish bible or in classical Greek literature, immensely subtle, profound narratives committed to writing only after enriching years of oral tradition. They tell the simple and devastating truths that have sustained people in the face of life and death. To be handed these stories a part of the living tradition of my faith community is an extraordinary privilege. Their truths should be read with tenderness and practised with resolution.

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