Sunday Scripture Readings Sunday Scripture Readings

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, FEBRUARY 19 Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25; Psalm 41; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12 The author of this section of the Book of Isaiah first reading is traditionally referred to as Second Isaiah. We believe he lived during the Babylonian captivity, the period after the fall of Jerusalem when most of Judah’s intelligentsia lived in the suburban center of Nippur. Jerusalem was but a faint memory for most of the Judahites living there. Life was hard so far away from home. Nevertheless, this prophet knew something was about to happen. The Neo-Babylonian Empire was on its last legs.Persia, under the leadership of the charismatic Cyrus, was knocking at the door. Second Isaiah sensed that the end of the captivity was near and this could only mean one thing. God had finally absolved them of their sins.The chance to return to Jerusalem, once no more than a dim hope, now seemed possible. Through the prophet, God counsels the people not to dwell on the past.Let it go.Don’t obsess over it anymore.Now God is about to do something refreshing and restorative.A new dawn comes.He will reform His people.He will lead them on a second Exodus through the wilderness and wastelands back to Judah, back to Jerusalem. Why can He do this? Because He has forgiven their offenses.All their failings are now forgotten and a new beginning is in store.By allowing them to go back to Jerusalem, God demonstrates His mercy and benevolence.In return He expects faithfulness and praise from His fully "renewed" people. The Gospel reading from Mark builds on this theme of forgiveness but in a way that may seem odd to us.What does being a paralytic have to do with sin?Certainly he cannot be faulted for the way he was born or the accident he may have suffered. In the world of ancient Israel and Judea the effects of sin were viewed differently. People at that time believed that any ailment or deformity was caused by iniquity.Misfortunes happened because God was angry with them and withdrew His heavenly protection that sustained life.Such divine abandonment subsequently allowed all sorts of illnesses to occur which accelerated the inevitable passage to death. People during this period also believed that, if left unenforced, the punishment for sin could be inherited and passed from one generation to another. This view attempted to explain those occasions when a particularly sinful person could live a full and complete life without any perceived form of divine castigation.Since this did not seem quite right, they developed the following rationale: While an offender may have escaped punishment for his sins during his lifetime, it would be his children or his children’s children who would finally feel the effects of the parent’s misdeeds and suffer the consequences of God’s correction. It could well be that Mark’s paralytic may have been a descendant of such a person. Yet we cannot know whether this is certain. All of this means that for Jesus, the Son of God, to forgive the paralytic of his sins, He had to heal his paralysis too. This was the only way His audience in Capernaum would recognize divine forgiveness. For to forgive sin was to also cure disease.Today, of course, we know differently. Illness or incapacity has nothing to do with the effects of sin.We also recognize that we are individually responsible before God for every one of our offenses. This week let us take time to review an occasion when we were not able to readily forgive someone for an offense against us. It need not be a recent incident. In fact such an assessment may require us to revisit an old grudge. In doing so it may even bring up some old, unresolved feelings. Let us face our grudges, for the time has come to fully and completely let any resentment go.Say a rosary and set it all aside.Forgive others as God forgave the Jews in Babylon. Forgive others as Jesus, His Son, forgave the paralytic. Forgive others in the same way we know that God has forgiven us by sending His Son to die for our sins. Kitz is an associate professor of Scripture at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary and a member of Cure of Ars Parish in Shrewsbury. Her e-mail address is kitz@kenrick.edu.

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