In today’s Gospel we hear Saint Matthew’s account of how Jesus Christ healed a paralytic man. When this man was brought to Him, He scandalized the scribes by telling him that His sins were forgiven. Showing that He knew their thoughts, Christ asked them: “Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” And then He continued: “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – He then said to the paralytic – ‘Rise, take up your bed and go home.’”
This encounter reveals who Jesus truly is. St John Chrysostom points out that, by reading what was in the scribes’ minds, Jesus shows Himself as truly God. Moreover, as they themselves point out, it is only God who can forgive sins. They are scandalized precisely because, by claiming to forgive sins, Jesus Christ is revealing Himself as truly God.
But this encounter also reveals the true nature of the healing that we need. St John Chrysostom continues by pointing out that, if anyone might have been annoyed, it was the paralytic man. He had come to Christ to be healed, but instead had had his sins forgiven. However, far from being annoyed, he recognizes Christ’s authority, surrendering himself to the One who heals. And, in this, he is healed in both body and soul.
This incident teaches us that spiritual and physical healing are closely related. While the links between sin and illness are not clear cut – and Jesus elsewhere denies that a man’s illness is a result of his sins (John 9:1-3) – there is a link between sin and suffering. When we come to God with what we think is our need, we need to be open to Him revealing our true need, for the healing that He offers us is often far greater than what we are aware we need.