Can only God forgive sin? Sunday Readings B 7 (Y-not question the Sunday Readings)
I offer something about the roof openers from my friends reflection.
Isaiah’s words ring out: ‘God is doing a new thing’. In Mark, Jesus is referred to as the ‘Son of Man’ who has authority ‘to forgive sins on earth’. The ‘Son of Man’ or ‘Human One’ is always connected with ‘true justice’ in the Old Testament. It emphasises ‘humanity’. Jesus' forgiveness of sin is connected with justice. God in the passage from Isaiah is unwilling to accept the way things are; neither is Jesus in the Gospel. Where we see need and perceive ‘defect’ we are called to engage the impulse of compassion.
People with physical disabilities were inferior in the community. Again, the gospel is not concerned merely with a cure but to challenge a system that held people in bondage. Purity laws and debt systems led to a segregation and exclusion – not restoration, inclusion and reconciliation. Jesus’ exorcism and healing confronts this injustice. The view that illness is a ‘defect’ or ‘moral failure’ is challenged by the Gospel. Also being challenged is the tendency to marginalise people and make them expendable. We may not tie sin with illness but certainly we are quite capable of treating people who are ageing, living with mental illness as expendable. The gospel is enacting an inclusive community. Jesus is preaching and the roof is removed so that the one excluded by the mainstream can be received [2:4]. The ‘human One’ forgives sin and the man's place in the ‘body’ is reinstated.
We are confronted daily by good and evil. Some is more visible than others. Some of the ‘demons’ can be named: greed that leads to exploitation and human trafficking, violence that tears families and communities apart, political domination that silences dissent, and sexism, racism and homophobia that suggests some people are more equal than others. These demons paralyse us. It is seen in withdrawal from political and social engagement because we believe that nothing can change. Nothing more can be expected! Fait accompli! But people suffer because of our ‘paralysis’, our inaction and the rationalisations that nothing can be done. The people of West Papua suffer because successive governments in this country have failed to speak out and remained silent in the face of oppression of Papuan people at the hands of the Indonesian military. People suffered when the Indonesian invasion of East Timor was accepted as fait accompli. Nothing could be done. But history tells us otherwise. The God of Jesus is involved in history, our history, in suffering humanity and our lives, and shows us that we create life and hope by walking the path no matter how dark it is. Each day is epiphany of God and becomes part of the history we create.
But when we shrink inwards to our safe and comfortable little worlds, our our humanity is threatened. e. e. cummings says that we cannot live ‘the mind of winter’, and render ourselves speechless and apathetic. There is no hope and no affirmation of life, humanity, creation, goodness.
The four roof-raisers in gospel were not waiting for something to happen. They made it happen. They collaborated in the process of liberation. Jesus called their action by its name — faith. They expected their action to bear fruit. This led them to take whatever means possible to order to bring their ‘friend’ into a place where he could be helped and healed. Their action challenges us as to the lengths we might go to help another. How heavy a load might each of us be willing to bear for one another? How ridicule are we prepared to accept for defending the rights of minorities or calling for peace with justice when all around others are calling our for more war.
God always calls us to what is new. When Isaiah reassures the people that their time of suffering is ending, it was not only God who bring that about but those who follow faithfully. Around our world there are 27 million people are trafficked. More people are in some form slavery than when it was abolished at the time of William Wilberforce. The modern form of slavery occurs in Australia – and it is not just young women, but men and children. God, through Isaiah, and through many people, mostly women, are proclaiming that their time of suffering in exile is over. The Anti-Slavery Project and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans are two organisations that collaborate and seek, along with a number of other organisations are proclaiming that ‘their time of suffering is over’. What appears as a hopeless situation becomes hope-filled as women, children and men are freed, one by one, and restored to the community of humanity rather than the world of commodity. Unfortunately, many do not believe that it is a problem for us in Australia. It is! It seems that given that most of the people involved in these organisations are women, it runs the risk of being seen as a women’s problem. Slavery is not over and it is not just a woman’s issue. God does not stop being faithful. God can see suffering and always says yes to us and comes down on the side of humanity. A remote God does not matter. It is not the God of Jesus. Jesus is God’s ‘yes’ to us, God’s ‘yes’ to humanity. If God is doing a new thing, something is being disrupted. We have to be part of that ‘yes’ in promoting and making possible ‘the new’.
‘Behold I am doing something new’. Where people gather together in solidarity – as those in today’s gospel – God does new things. This is very clear in the bushfires that have occurred in Victoria in the last week till the present. The stories of generosity and disregard for self-interest that have emerged and will continue to be told are signs that ‘new things are possible’. People have come back to see that their relationships, their connections, the humanity of others is far more important than the possessions they have.
Leonardo Boff in an article, ‘It is dark, but I sing’, quotes the poet Thiago de Mello, who in times of repression had the unprecedented courage to proclaim: ‘It is dark, but I sing!’ When we join together with whoever says ‘yes’ to God's creation, to our common humanity, to justice and to peace, then it is possible to challenge the ‘demons’ that promote death, violence, greed, lies. Those ‘demons’ still terrorise many people in Aboriginal communities and towns. How is it possible to move forward in dignity unless the shame of past and present injustice is unacknowledged? This is not a ‘yes’ to life, to humanity, to liberation, but a deeper form of paralysis. The disciple’s first and most important work is to reconcile, to bring reconciliation, forgiveness and love into the place he or she stands. Where barriers are erected, can we reach out and include? We are part of the new thing that God does every day. We might be astonished, not only at the new things God does, but what we do. We will be different people and being different means taking a different approach to people – reaching out in loving forgiveness will bring peace into our relationships and sensitivity to justice and injustice in the wider world.
Learning to see and perceive and act with compassion rather than self-interest remains at the heart of following Jesus… and it is way out of our paralysis.
My purpose is to remember the love that created me in God one with my brothers and sisters and with all life. My function is to extend that love and unity each moment to all.
- Can only God forgive sin? Sunday Readings B 7 - Ynot, 2012-02-17, 16:27
- Can only God forgive sin? Sunday Readings B 7 - Francis, 2012-02-17, 20:09
- A tapestry with many threads - CathyT, 2012-02-18, 01:43
- Can only God forgive sin? Sunday Readings B 7 - Sue, 2012-02-18, 12:34
- Can only God forgive sin? Sunday Readings B 7 - Jerome, 2012-02-18, 14:19
- Can only God forgive sin? Sunday Readings B 7 - judith, 2012-02-19, 17:34