It would seem that our texts today wish us to reflect upon the
consequences of sin and God’s power to both prosecute and forgive.
This is certainly true. In the passage from Amos we learn of a prediction
of wrath coming upon Israel because of its sinfulness. Likewise, in
the Gospel account the miracle that Jesus performs suggests a connection
between the paralytic’s affliction and his sinfulness. In the first,
ignoring the prophet’s warnings brings affliction. In the second, forgiveness
of sins brings healing. God has power to do what God wills.
Such a line of reflection can bear much fruit. There is, after all,
a connection between what we do and the state of the world. Nations
and peoples can, like individuals, fall into sinful patterns that, over time,
come back to haunt and debilitate. Israel’s ancient exile in Egypt
stands as a warning. We should also not be too quick to dismiss the
connection between human suffering and sinfulness. There is a way in
which living in a broken world is “bad for you.” We do not easily escape
from the clutches of sin.
Still, I find myself drawn to another line of interpretation as I read these
texts. I am most struck by the observation common to both readings
that God’s message is resisted by humans. In Amos God wants to help,
but no one is listening. In Matthew God wants to heal, but this seems
to enrage the religious authorities. According to this line of thinking,
the emphasis shifts from the consequences of sin to the human quality of
What are we to make of these scribes? They resist the goodness of Jesus
because of their preconceived notions of what is and is not religiously appropriate.
Their sin is not that they do not believe, but that they do not allow God
the freedom to be God.
I wonder about my resistance. Where are the points in my life where
God is challenging me to conversion, like Amos challenged Israel? Where
are the points in my life where I receive God’s good news like an affliction?
According to my spiritual director, paying attention to resistance is one
of the great requirements for growth in holiness. I suppose I
should consider it a good sign that I understand the resistance of the scribes.