The appendix of the Rite of Penance offers a handful of themes to those prepare a liturgy. That preparation might involve a communal service at the Church. But it might well lead to a home celebration. In that instance, the penitent, usually seriously ill, will receive the Church’s ministry at bedside or elsewhere in the house.
Mark’s account of a group of friends lowering a paralytic man through the roof to get to Jesus. The homeowner might not have been pleased, but the Bible glosses over such a concern. The effort is made on behalf of the one brought for healing. The man is made to walk, but Jesus ties up sin and infirmity into a confusing knot for some observers. He has a ready answer. Let’s remind ourselves of the story:
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
Unconventional, but so far, typical of the faith many people showed in Jesus. Just touch me, say the word, do the smallest thing–it will have effect. From the viewpoint of believers, we have no problem with this scene. The picturing of bits of dried mud or thatch or even drywall and wood raining down on Jesus and his listeners might even bring a smile to mind.
In Mark’s Gospel, a first conflict with the traditionally religious is introduced:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind
what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said,
“Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”
… which is the point this passage is included in the Reconciliation Lectionary. In hindsight, we know and accept that Jesus does have the authority to forgive sins. It is part of a long-standing sacramental tradition.
The healing commences:
—he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying,
“We have never seen anything like this.”
This passage might be used for its vital imagery. It connects the notion of infirmity with forgiveness of sin. This, too, is part of the Church’s ministry to the sick. We anoint the sick, and we believe this sacrament too has powers to restore the interior person as well as the physical attributes.
I love this story. Great visual images. Much to chew on and to envision in one’s mind. A good passage for a communal celebration of Penance, as well as a visit to the home of a sick person.