January 18, 2013 - Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11
Psalm 78:3, 4, 6-8
Mark 2:1-12

Several features of this Gospel suggest that the paralyzed person was not an adult. Jesus calls him “child”, and of course there is the practical aspect of lowering him from the roof: he must not have weighed so much. If it is a child, it is all the more difficult to deal with the association that Jesus makes between the forgiveness of sins and healing. A tiny paralyzed child small enough that four people can let him down through the roof: is he being punished for his sins? What sins could this child have? The obvious answer is original sin.

Perhaps this seems unfair or cruel, but that is really a separate question. We know from reality that suffering is present from the first moments of life. A child born with a disability or disease, are they guilty of some sin? Of course not! But then again they are often suffering the consequences of sin. Fetal alcohol syndrome, addiction to drugs, malnutrition, and many other ways that young children suffer is the consequence of sin — their parents' sin or the sins of their country's leaders or the sins of greed and selfishness in the world. Since all this is apparent on the material level, how can we doubt that it reflects a spiritual reality that sin causes suffering in this world, and the innocent are often the ones who suffer.

Undoubtedly, there is much we do not understand about reality. There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. When we see a child suffering we can be sure that that is the consequence of sin in this sense that no child would have suffered in Eden. All the suffering in the world: what we hear on the news, what we see with our own eyes, is the consequence of sin, including our sins. We might say that we have never hurt anyone with our sins, at least not badly. Who did Adam and Eve really hurt by eating that fruit? Sometimes it is clear why our sins hurt others. Other times it is difficult to see. But we can be sure that if sin were really not that big a deal, Jesus would not have made such a big deal of it. He would not have died on the Cross for something that did not really matter. Jesus is telling us today that there can be no healing without the forgiveness of sins.