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Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Meditation on Healing and Forgiveness

Rev. Fr. Alexander Kurien
St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church of Greater Washington, Washington, DC

From the Gospel according to St. Mark 2: 1-12

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic. Healing and forgiveness are about being whole because they are about confronting evil and sin in ourselves and the world. God's word to us confronts us with our weakness, sins, and ailments and offers us healing and wholeness. The story of the paralytic should grab us viscerally for it is the Gospel at its most raw, confronting us with the limits of our understanding. This is what makes Mark's story of the paralytic such good drama.

Jesus makes a number of connections we are perhaps uncomfortable with: between sin and physical disorder, between faith and healing. Yet, Jesus' connections are not about cause and effect but relation. Forgiveness of sin and physical healing parallel each other neither is more or less difficult. Each is equally significant for the Gospel and the manifestation of the Kingdom in this man's life. Mark also tells us that Jesus forgives and heals the paralytic on the basis not the paralytic's faith but the faith of his friends. He is simply forgiven and healed on the basis of the faith of his community. The Gospel, the work of Jesus and the manifestation of the kingdom functions in this matrix while being center all on Jesus and the Church.

This story of healing and forgiveness is not about an individual encounter between a person and Jesus, but occurs in the midst of those gathered around Jesus. The man is forgiven in the midst of his community and the community of God, the body of Christ. This emphasis on community and church here in this story should not surprise us since the Church has always had two rites which parallel each other just as forgiveness and healing parallel each other in this story: confession/reconciliation. James 5:13-18 makes this same connection of anointing for healing and confession and forgiveness of sin. A world that can leave its mark on us through physical ailment personal sin and complicity with societal sin. Through Christ we come to be renewed and made whole. Through Christ we may witness to the Kingdom of God.

When you forgive yourself, you cease doing the thing you ought not to do. Jesus taught that son of God has the power to forgive sin. Sin is falling short of Divine Law. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus makes it clear that repentance and forgiveness are the only means that man has of getting out of sin and its effects and coming into harmony with God's Law (Matthew 6:12). We forgive sins in ourselves every time we resolve to let go mistakes and think and act in alignment with the Divine Law of the Christ in our spiritual core. In repentance the mind changes from a material to a Christ-centered spiritual base. In forgiveness change must take place within the inner man before Christ can begin his healing work.

We can especially be paralyzed on that first step of repentance. It is very hard to recognize our own faults and shortcomings, to honestly desire to give them up, and then to humbly ask the Lord to forgive us and command us to go forth into life reborn to a new awareness of our relationship to the Divine. This is what the friends of the paralytic help him to do. They carry him up to roof, a higher vantage point, to see himself; they dig a hole in the roof, tearing away the obstacles; and then they help him to ask for help as they lower him down to the feet of Jesus. Jesus fills the paralytic with his love and his light, forgives and accepts him, and commands him to take up his mat and walk.

It seems especially important to me that Jesus tells the paralytic to take his mat. Although he no longer needs it to be carried upon, it has been a part of him and he must still take it with him to dispose of as he sees fit. When we are changed by the Lord, we are reborn into a new awareness and new behaviors; but this does not mean we immediately forget the way we used to be. There are some ways in which we, too, must carry away our mat of old behaviors, old ideas, narrow perspectives, and prejudices, to be faced and disposed of appropriately. Let us use this Great Lent as a time for repentance, reconciliation, and self healing.

See Also:

Story of Joseph in the Bible is an epitome of a forgiving mind, a proof that even if man decides to hurt one's feelings or rob one's best part of life, nothing shall ultimately prevail against what God has destined.

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