Today’s Gospel: Luke 5:17-26
Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
The readings today are an exaltation of a new kind of freedom. This freedom is the linchpin of achieving the ultimate good for each and every human person. It is not political freedom, such as freedom of movement or freedom of speech; it is not economic freedom or even freedom to practice religion. It is more powerful than any state power could infringe upon. It is the freedom of heart that chooses God above all.
In the gospels, the advent of freedom of heart is symbolized by a release from bodily injury or disability. In today’s reading, Jesus is teaching to crowds of people, and in the audience are teachers of the law from every town in Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. These leaders watch Jesus closely out of suspicion and jealousy. All of a sudden, a paralyzed man is lowered down through the roof and set before Jesus. The paralytic’s friends believed Jesus could heal him, but some others in the room had no such conviction. When Jesus sees the faith of the man’s friends, he decides to heal him and says to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” Immediately the teachers condemn Jesus in their hearts as a blasphemer. “Which is easier to say,” remarks the Lord, “your sins are forgiven or stand up and walk? But so you may know the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, Rise, pick up your stretcher and go home.” The greater reality in this healing was the inner healing that frees us from sin, and the healing of the body is a sign of that.
The story of our freedom from sin is told in the gospel each time a blind or deaf, lame or mute person is healed, for it means the eyes of our soul are opened, our spiritual senses cleared. Our lameness and sloth are replaced with energy that makes us leap up to serve God, and our mute tongues begin to sing God’s praises. Isaiah 35 reflects these same spiritual realities of awakening to the divine love of God. As we read further in Isaiah, we see that freedom from sin puts us on a highway where the redeemed walk until they will enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.
As we prepare for Christmas, this message should give us a rising hope. The gift of God in Jesus, become like us and born of Mary in a humble dwelling, sets us free from sin and death, and this is a joy no one can take from us. Gaudete!
In what ways am I in need of the Lord’s healing so that I may be free to love him and to love his people?
Lord, set me free from all the attachments of heart that keep me from enjoying you fully. As my heart grows in love with you, help me to love the poor and the forgotten, for you became poor the night you were born in Bethlehem.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola