June 30, 2022
by Tom Purcell
Creighton University's College of Business
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 380

Amos 7:10-17
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
Matthew 9:1-8

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Rediscovering the Corporal Works of Mercy

Today’s gospel raises some interesting questions for me.  Is our human predilection to act in sinful ways the cause of our infirmities (as apparently the scribes believed), or is the presence of our infirmities another manifestation of the reality of our human condition (i.e., to be human is to have physical imperfections and illnesses, leading inevitably to death of our physical being)?  If sin “causes” our illnesses, how does one explain the situation we all encounter where an apparently upstanding person is afflicted with some disease while an apparently flawed person is not?  To borrow the book title, why do bad things happen to good people?  Interesting questions, but beyond my ability to resolve here.

And another set of questions – why do the scribes care more how it is that Jesus is able to cure than to wonder at the miracle of the cure itself?  How is it that people can witness a miracle and yet not find it in themselves to accept it, but instead feel the need to debunk and trivialize?

In our sophistication and skepticism, we tend to underappreciate the rarity and reality of true miracles.  We use the term “miracle” to describe victories in sporting events, good fortune in avoiding injury in accidents, rapid discoveries of vaccines for pandemic illnesses, and so on.  The New Oxford American Dictionary defines miracle as “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.”  A miracle, in which the divine actually intercedes in our human existence to change the natural flow of events, is truly rare and remarkable.  A winning horse that had a 100 to 1 chance of winning the race is not a miracle.

I think Jesus was trying to convey some of this failing to appreciate the specialness of a miracle when He engaged in wordplay with the scribes.  Yes, He taught a lesson about the forgiveness of sin.  But I think He was talking to the paralytic in language that person (and the listeners and witnesses) would have understood.  If you have been taught and culturally prepared to think that your sins caused your infirmity, how would you react if someone told you to get up and walk, and didn’t mention forgiving your sins? 

For me, the wonder has always been that God walked among us in the form of Jesus.  Jesus performed miracles, and people’s lives were changed.  Jesus, as man and Divine Being, was moved by compassion and empathy to ease the suffering of the person directly in front of Him.  Why was it so hard for the scribes to accept the Godliness of the action of curing without parsing the reasons for the cure?  Why was it so hard for the crowds pressing around Jesus when He cured someone to rejoice in the great good fortune for the recipient and not press and angle for something for themselves as well? 

Is it not a miracle in itself that we are loved by the Divine?  Is it not beyond our human experience that God would, at times, step in and change the course of our lives?  Is not life itself the most significant and poignant miracle of all?  Isn’t the reality of our every single moment a miracle – this breath I just took, the sunrise I saw this morning, the trill of the songbird in my yard, the collective knowledge of humankind that enables me to even communicate these feelings?  Doesn’t the miracle of life itself give us great solace that our own lives are meaningful precisely because this Divine Being so loved us as to create us and this world?

And so, my prayer today is for the grace to wonder at all the miracles I see around me and to pay homage to the God who loves me so much.

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