Today’s Gospel: Matthew 9, 1-8
As a kid, this passage always bothered me; these people did nothing, I thought, to warrant an explicit forgiveness of sin, and yet Jesus proclaims it with a startling certitude, based on a faith that he could see, but I, as a young reader, could not. I had to get a little older to realize that what Jesus saw in their approach was evidence that they possessed two elements that are essential to having faith: Hope and Trust.
One may hope but without trust, hope becomes doubt, which is not faith. Trust without hope, meanwhile, is something weak and easily withdrawn; it cannot be called faith. No, for faith to exist, there must be equal quantities of Trust and Hope, and that is what Jesus saw in the people who brought to him a paralyzed man on a stretcher. The action of their petition was a sufficient demonstration of faith.
That’s worth remembering, particularly in those times when we know that we’ve been negligent in our prayer or devotional practices, and so we become reluctant to go to Jesus in our need, because we think we’re worthless slack-offs, unfit to approach His Majesty. We think of our neglect as a sufficient demonstration of our lack of faith. That’s exactly what the Evil One would want us to think, and that’s exactly why we mustn’t allow our own singed consciences to keep us from prayer.
The action of our praying, even when we are off-kilter, is itself evidence that we possess hope and trust, and therefore have faith. It’s worth noting, too, that Jesus rebukes those who prefer to think the worst, rather than the best, of persons and situations; he calls that thinking “evil” because to think the worst of others, or ourselves, denies and strangles both hope and trust.
How easy it is to think the worst, rather than the best, of others, and of ourselves! How often do you wait to see evidence of someone’s goodness, or their contrition, before you acknowledge that our first duty is to remember that, to paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI, “it is good that [he/she] exists”?
Lord Jesus, please help me to see my own faith with your eyes, so that I might not be deceived and led away from you by old tapes and evil voices. In hope and trust, I submit the gift of faith, which you gave to me, into the keeping of your Sacred Heart, to be inflamed there, branded with the words, “Courage, child…”
Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Scalia
Elizabeth Scalia is a Benedictine Oblate and the author of Little Sins Mean a Lot: Kicking Our Bad Habits Before They Kick Us (OSV) and Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life (AMP). She is Editor-in-Chief at the English Edition of Aleteia.org, an international Catholic publication.