“Why do you harbor evil thoughts?”

Today in Matthew 9:1-8, Jesus teaches us the wonderful healing power of forgiveness.

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,
“This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,
Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he then said to the paralytic,
“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe
and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

There is much angst in the Roman Catholic Church these days because Pope Francis and the Jesuits are talking about welcoming the LGBT community into the faith, allowing divorced Catholics to receive Communion, and offering them burial after death. There are those in the Catholic faith community who are wholly open to this, and there are those who are wholly against it.

Those who are wholly open to it think it’s time that it’s time the Church stop judging these people and that it update its teaching on these relationships. Those who are wholly against it think the people in these groups are terrible sinners and must repent first. There is a deep divide between the two groups.

But in today’s reading, Jesus gives us guidance. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” he says to the scribes, who were the holders of Jewish faith doctrine. Jesus receives a man who paralyzed, unable to walk but moved from place to place on a stretcher. There is no indication the man makes a confession or publicly repents of his sin. He makes an act of faith. And Jesus says to him, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus knew what was in his heart, while the scribes and those in the crowd did not.

Jesus frequently tells us, “Judge not.” He rarely condemns sinners, and when He does, it’s the overly pious, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees whom He condemns.

Our world is full of people who condemn others for what they perceive or imagine or assume are sins or slights or blasphemes of God by others. But Jesus would rebuke them. “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” Shouldn’t they let God be the judge and let Him heal whatever ails the person, whether it’s what you think it is or another thing?

Open your hearts to God that He may guide you to be open to accepting of others and not judge them for their faults. For you have faults of your own. And pray that He may be as compassionate and merciful to you as He is in healing others. Don’t seek to deny God’s love to others, but seek to encourage them to be receptive to that love and join in that love in the spirit in which it is given. And as a sinner, be receptive to God’s forgiveness and healing — no one is unworthy of God’s love.

And while we’re talking of forgiveness and its healing properties, don’t forget you have the power to forgive. Jesus calls on us to forgive our brothers and sisters with whom we have a problem. That has healing powers for both parties. Forgiveness is worth more than all the gold in all the kingdoms of the world! Love your neighbor as yourself.

“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” Glory to God!

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