Monday, February 20, 2012

7th Sunday - homily

We should be familiar with today’s Gospel of the paralytic and Jesus. It is a scene that elicits much reflection and provides a few images that are good for meditation. Jesus is preaching to a packed house, literally. He is preaching and teaching. Then, four men bring their paralyzed friend to the house but can’t get in because of all the people. So, they open up the roof and lower him down. This took some doing, of course. Jesus sees what great friends this man has! They have a sense of urgency in bringing their friend to Jesus. They have strong faith, of course; it is their faith that prompts the Lord to forgive and heal their friend.

I want to focus on the scribes, though. They question Jesus’ authority to forgive the paralytic’s sins. We might wonder how and why they did that. It is Jesus! He is God, He is the Son of God. But, we know the full story about Jesus which they didn’t at that point. We know of his divine authority, and might look down on those in the gospel who questioned it. And yet, many Catholics do the same thing as the scribes when it comes to the authority of priests to forgive sins. They acknowledge the authority of priests to baptize, consecrate the Eucharist, anoint the sick and dying, but why do they approach the sacrament of Confession differently?

We discussed this last Wednesday at our “Theology on Tap”. I told some stories involving the other sacraments – getting a call two years ago to baptize a student who fell out of a building and died later after receiving the sacrament; being called to immediately perform the Anointing of the Sick on the father of a good friend of mine; being asked to come in on my day off recently to celebrate Mass because our substitute priest backed out at the last minute. In all these examples, people recognized the authority the priest has…an authority they don’t have. You recognize this when you come to Mass. You inherently believe that the bread and wine will become the Body and Blood of Christ through my hands and the words I will say. You will show this when you kneel before the elements, believing that it is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. If it’s not – if it’s just bread and wine – then get the heck away from Mass and the Catholic Church. You would be kneeling before and worshiping bread. Talk about blasphemy! But, you rightly believe that a change happens because it does…through the priest.

So, I asked the students the other night why it is different with Confession. Why do people think that they can go directly to God, or like the scribes, only God has authority on Earth to forgive sins. The students said it was because Confession is more of a personal situation which I totally get. But, if we really believed that the power of Christ was in the priest and it was really Christ that we encounter in the confessional, how could we not go? Even if people don’t have mortal sins to confess, they would still go regularly to talk to Jesus and receive His grace through the priest.

He helps our faith as he helped the faith of those at the house. To show that He has authority to forgive sins, he says to the paralytic, “rise, pick up your mat, and walk”. The man rose, picked up his mat…and walked. The people were astonished and glorified God, saying, “we have never seen anything like this”. He performed a miracle for them! He has performed miracles through priests…many, many miracles. The priest who will celebrate the 7:30 Healing Mass has had miracles at his parish. Jesus has worked two miracles through me – a broken foot that healed (the bone healed up within a week!) and a brain tumor that disappeared after I laid my hands on the woman and drenched her head with miraculous water from Lourdes, France. It is the same miraculous power…the power of Christ. He gave the power to work miracles to the first priests….the power to heal…to baptize….to consecrate…to forgive sins…to drive out demons. They passed it to the next priests who passed it to the next priests...all the way down to current priests. We have the power…the power of Christ through our hands.

Let us be open to Christ and that we may experience His healing and forgiveness through His priests.

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