When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?
But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The crowd’s response at the end of the gospel today is one of my favorite in all of scripture, “We have never seen anything like this.” About 20 years ago, a mentor in my life noted that the unexpected is often a telltale sign of God’s handiwork in the world: God’s dreams bigger or more imaginative than my own. When we discover that “it wasn’t supposed to be like this” — as hard as that can be –we are precisely at the point where we recognize God is here, at work.
As I reflect on that wisdom 20 years later, I see how God has woven a narrative far richer than I would have dreamed possible, beyond the options apparent to me at the time. In both the simple, day-to-day: a third option discovered, an extended deadline, a snow day, a burst of afternoon sun in the dregs of January. And in the more lasting: a relationship consecrated, children adopted, a vocation discovered, enemies becoming friends, a paralytic healed, life from death. This truth St. Ignatius himself discovered: would he have ever imagined as he healed from battle wounds at his family’s home that his future lay not in soldiering but in spiritual conversation?
God today invites us to attune our limited sight to his, to trust that he sees far beyond what we do, and to hope as the four men who bring their paralytic friend to Jesus do: nothing is impossible with God.
—Matthew Couture is the assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuits. Matt and his wife Bridget live in Chicago and have two children.
Lord, it can be difficult to abandon ourselves to you with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives. We fear that you may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons. Lord, increase our faith so we really believe that you want to bring us to a fulfillment that gives true joy and true serenity. Let us dare to be open to your surprises, especially when we anticipate a day filled with the humdrum of everyday life.
—Prayer is based on Pope Francis’ Sermon, May 19, 2013