O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
by the obedience of Jesus
you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will,
that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
I love the Lord, for he has heard the voice of my supplication;
because he inclined his ear to me on the day I called to him.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pains of hell took hold of me;
by grief and sorrow was I held.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
‘O Lord, I beg you, deliver my soul.’
Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord watches over the simple;
I was brought very low and he saved me.
Turn again to your rest, O my soul,
for the Lord has been gracious to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears and my feet from falling.
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.
And after getting into a boat Jesus crossed the water and came to his own town.
And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he then said to the paralytic – ‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
Jesus said to the scribes: Why do you think evil in your hearts?
The scribes knew the religious laws very well, in fact they were experts on the subject. They knew the words of the Torah (the books of the law at the beginning of our Old Testament) and they were zealous in living out that law in their everyday lives. However, like all people, they found that living out every detail of a code of laws could, at times, be inconvenient. We know this situation very well indeed. There are so many things we do that we know, in our hearts, that we should not do. If I were to list just some of those things I would soon find myself extending this reflection to many pages. The scribes knew the law but Jesus found evil in their hearts.
In today’s reading Jesus heals a paralyzed man. Some people had brought the paralyzed man into Jesus’ presence in the hope that Jesus would heal him. We do not know whether those who carried the paralyzed man were family, friends or just some who had pity for the poor man’s plight. Of course, this detail does not really impact on the message of today’s reading. The fact is that Jesus saw faith in the hearts of those who carried that disabled man, and in the heart of the man himself. It was because of that faith, which may only have been as tiny as a mustard seed, that Jesus was able to bring healing and renewal into that damaged life.
In contrast to the faith of the paralyzed man and his bearers, Jesus saw something very different in the hearts of the religious experts, the scribes. They were not moved with compassion at the sorry state of the paralyzed man; they did not see a moment of hope for him. Instead they sought a way of twisting Jesus’ power to bring about yet another miraculous healing into a cause for criticism. What is more it was not just some mild rebuke, rather it was an accusation of blasphemy, acting in direct opposition to God’s teaching and God’s will. When viewed in this way we should not be surprised that Jesus described what he saw in the hearts of the scribes as ‘evil’.
In our journeys of faith we are called to ‘practise what we preach’. We are called to not only know the law and the will of God but to commit ourselves to that law and that will with all our hearts. We are not called to put on a show of piety, but to live the holy life. We are called to seek the strength that will result in Jesus finding faith rather than evil in our hearts.
Let us pray that that may always be so.
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
Lord of all,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
renew our hearts through your Holy Spirit,
that we may long to draw close to you in prayer,
that we may have the faith to hear your call on our lives,
and that we may have the courage
to tread the path you have set before us,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.