18 January. Friday of Week 1

1st Reading: Hebrews 4:1-5, 11

Through faith we shall enter into God’s day of rest

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “As in my anger I swore, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day, “today”, saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
If Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labours as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that nobody may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. (R./)

Responsorial: Psalm 77:3-4, 6-8

Response: Do not forget the works of the Lord.

The things we have heard and understood,
the things our fathers have told us
we will not hide from their children
but will tell them to the next generation:
the glories of the Lord and his might
and the marvellous deeds he has done. (R./)
They too should arise and tell their sons
that they too should set their hope in God
and never forget God’s deeds
but keep every one of his commands. (R./)
So that they might not be like their fathers,
a defiant and rebellious race,
a race whose heart was fickle,
whose spirit was unfaithful to God. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

In Capernaum Jesus heals a paralytic after first forgiving his sins

When Jesus 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.”


Getting the balance right

Several details in today’s readings seem to balance each other. Jesus exemplifies at Capernaum how to adapt to dramatic change and yet move steadily onward, towards God’s rest. There is a large gathering at the home of Peter’s mother-in-law, presumably Jesus’ temporary headquarters at Capernaum. We may see it as a symbol of church unity, a reality larger than our Roman Catholic model of church and one that enables all believers to be united with Jesus, and so with each other. From him, in the setting of Peter’s home, comes God’s word to all who would listen.
An unruly scene takes place in that house, showing the ingenuity and determination of the four men who carried their paralysed friend to Jesus. When they cannot get through the crowd, they simply carried the man to the flat roof of the house, made a hole in it and lowered the sick man into the presence of Jesus. The story shows a nice blend of helpfulness and dependency. Without the paralytic those four healthy men would never have gotten this close to Jesus, and without his friends the paralytic was unable to get anywhere.
The supreme moment comes when Jesus renews the work of the Creator, by healing the paralytic and restoring him to health in body and spirit: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again’?” But to enter into God’s paradise there must be forgiveness, not only from Jesus, but also from each of us. We are all told to forgive our neighbour if we wish to be forgiven by God. Such is the prayer each day in the Our Father. With such forgiveness, we remain united as one people of God and we avoid the excesses of dominance and mutual recrimination. We can be one people, strong in our opposing infidelity and yet never succumbing to power plays, petty rivalry and materialism. We can cross the bridge of change and support one another in the difficulties of changing times, patient with the sins of others, ready to rally round again in a bond of love and hope.

Carrying their friend

The image of the four men carrying the paralytic to Jesus is a very graphic one. They were so determined to get him to Jesus that they opened a hole in the roof above Jesus when their way through the door was blocked because of the crowd. They wanted to get their friend to Jesus because they recognized Jesus as the source of health and life. They were taking their friend to a fuller life. The image of the four men carrying their friend towards the source of life puts me in mind of the many people who are trying to do the same for those still buried under the rubble in Haiti.
This morning we remember those who are the victims of disaster, and we remember those who are working so hard to get to them and to bring them to life and safety. Sometimes we can do very little for ourselves and become completely dependant on others for our recovery and safety. More often we may find ourselves like the four friends in the gospel, in a position to bring others back on their feet, to help them from darkness to light. We need to carry each other’s burdens. When we are faithful to that calling we are following him who said, “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.” The Lord looks to us to help him to carry the burdens of others and to bring them to a greater fullness of life.

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