Only Jesus can make the paralyzed man walk. But we can all forgive.
“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Mt 9:5)
In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of the paralyzed man who is healed by Jesus. His friends, unable to get the man’s stretcher through the crowds surrounding Jesus, opt for an even harder route: pulling their paralyzed friend onto the roof and somehow lowering him into the room where Jesus is preaching. As I try to imagine how they pulled this off, I’m at a loss. Did they tie his stretcher to ropes and lower it? Did they lean down as far as they could and hope someone on the ground would take hold and safely set their friend down? Why was there a hole in the roof, anyway? Did the friends pull someone’s roof apart for this?
This feat reveals the friends’ deep love for the paralyzed man and their desire to see him healed: We are willing to go to extremes for the people we love.
But what Jesus does next is even more extreme: He tells the man and his friends that their sins are forgiven. The Pharisees complain about this, asking: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus replies by telling them, basically, that it is easier to forgive sins than to heal a paralytic, and then, to prove he can forgive sins, he heals the paralyzed man, telling him, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
I think the lesson of today’s Gospel is that although we cannot miraculously heal the paralyzed, we can work one miraculous healing: forgiving one another.
Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus revisits the Pharisees’ question, “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” His answer is that God will forgive us if we forgive others (Mt 6:14).
So what do we make of this? I think the lesson of today’s Gospel is that although we cannot miraculously heal the paralyzed, we can still do great things out of love for others, like the paralyzed man’s friends do for him. And, more important, we can work one miraculous healing: forgiving one another.
Get to know Colleen Dulle, associate editor
1. Favorite Christmas Song
All the Bing Crosby Christmas recordings; I love how warm and nostalgic they sound.
2. Favorite Christmas Tradition
Every year, my cousin gets a few friends from the neighborhood to host a traveling Epiphany party: We go from apartment to apartment where each host has prepared snacks and drinks, and at each place the host gives a toast and then writes the traditional Epiphany blessing in chalk above the door. It’s so much fun, extends the Christmas celebrations well into the Christmas season, and for the rest of the year the chalk marking is a reminder of the blessing of friends and family.
3. Favorite Christmas Recipe
Mulled wine—it’s so easy and smells amazing. I make it anytime I have guests over during the holidays, including for the Epiphany party!
4. Favorite Article You Wrote This Year
My cover story on women in the Vatican from the October issue. It was the most in-depth Vatican reporting I’ve ever done, and I’m so happy with how it turned out.