O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Such as we have heard and known,
which our forebears have told us,
We will not hide from their children,
but will recount to generations to come,
the praises of the Lord and his power
and the wonderful works he has done.
He laid a solemn charge on Jacob
and made it a law in Israel,
which he commanded them to teach their children,
That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn,
that they in turn might tell it to their children;
So that they might put their trust in God
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments,
And not be like their forebears,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
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 paralysed 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!’
Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them.
Not so many days ago we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany. During that celebration the Church recalled the coming of the Magi, the Wise Men. Not only did those wise men travel hundreds of miles to offer their precious gifts to the infant Jesus, but they also avoided the political machinations and deceptions of Herod. Having followed the star for so long and for so many, many miles, they knelt down and paid him homage before returning to their own country by another road.
For the Church, it is this journey home by another road that represents the moment when the truth of the Incarnation of the Christ was revealed to the wider world. Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, came to earth for all. Symbolically, his presence was revealed first to the Jewish nation as the angels heralded his birth to the shepherds in the fields below Bethlehem. But, the Good News of Jesus Christ was not for Jews alone, it was a message of hope and love from God to the whole of his creation.
In Psalm 72, the psalm most closely associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, we read of kings from far lands rendering him tribute. We also read that all nations give him service, and the prayer: Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Centuries before the actual birth of Jesus, that birth was foretold. The different journeys of the wise men were part of God’s plan for humanity.
So, how does this recollection of the coming and going of the wise men connect with today’s reading? To begin with we can see that the journey of the Magi had achieved its aim. The word had spread beyond the Jewish community. Many journeyed to Jesus. So many made that journey that no earthly home could contain them. We also see that God’s healing love, as made manifest in Jesus Christ, was already highly valued. It was also a love that people felt the need to share, rather than keep to themselves. Even those who could not make the journey themselves, such as the paralysed man, were brought in hope and love.
This short passage from Mark’s gospel tells us of a miraculous healing and yet another moment when the Jewish religious leaders were affronted by Jesus’ challenge to their self-serving authority. There is also one other detail that is easily missed. Mark tells us that the paralysed man was carried by four of them. There is a sign from this of the ancient prophecies being fulfilled in this reading. It was prophesied that they would come from all corners of the earth, from north, south, east and west, to render him homage.
The wise men, after worshipping the baby, journeyed by another road. That other road led to the sharing of the Good News far beyond the little town of Bethlehem. Their journey started a tide of ripples that continue their journey to this day. Let us play our part in worshipping God and spreading the Good News. Let us join the four of them by helping others to journey by that other road which will bring them nearer to God.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray for the mercy of God, to pardon and to heal all ills in the Church and in the world.
May the Church be always open to those who come. Cleanse her from the pride of claiming sole possession of the power of God. May her ministers be compassionate to both spiritual and physical needs, that the glory of God may be seen in all his works.
We pray for all who work to relieve suffering, who set aside their own interest for the benefit of others. When the problems of the world seem beyond remedy, open new ways through which people may be made whole.
Grant to us concern for sickness and distress, and give us the will to help those around us who are in need. May our community be filled with the spirit of friendship and mutual help.
We pray for the sick, for the disabled and all who cannot help themselves. Bless with skill and compassion those who care for them. Give them faith in the power of God to heal when human hope fails.
Have mercy on the departed who have come through the winding ways of this world, to be brought at last to the feet of Christ. Their infirmities healed and their sins forgiven, may they glorify God in eternal life.
May our prayers be accepted through Christ, who forgives the sins of the world.
Prayer for the week
Loving Father, we pray for all
who are any way troubled at this time.
Give relief to those in pain,
friendship to those who are alone,
reassurance to those in doubt or distress of mind;
and may our love be so strong that seeing need
we may never pass by on the other side.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus Christ,
our loving Lord and Saviour.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Hills of the North, rejoice,
river and mountain-spring,
hark to the advent voice;
valley and lowland, sing.
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
he brings salvation from above.
Shout, as you journey home,
songs be in every mouth,
lo, from the North they come,
from East and West and South:
in Jesus all shall find their rest,
in him the universe be blest.
Editors of English Praise, 1975
based on Charles Ernest Oakley (1832–1865)