"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
February 19, 2012: The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Synopsis: Sin holds us back and drags us down. Hanging on to sin is like lugging around a sack of wet cement.
In this week’s first reading the Lord tells his people languishing in exile to “Remember not the events of the past.” God was preparing to deliver them from captivity in Babylon and lead them back to the Promised Land. The people of God had been paralyzed by the sins of the past and so were unable to move forward, very much like the paralytic in this week’s Gospel. Only with God’s help could they be free.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they have been given the Holy Spirit as the “first installment” of God’s promises. Raised up with Christ in baptism they can now experience the fullness of life, for the promises of God who is ever faithful, Paul says, find their “yes!” in Jesus Christ.
The past few Sundays we have seen how the various healings point to the Cross in one way or another. This week’s Gospel is about a paralyzed man who is brought to Jesus by his friends and let down through the roof because the house was so crowded. The raising of the paralyzed man alludes to the raising of Jesus at the end of the Gospel, once again connecting a healing miracle to the paschal mystery. In this story, healing and forgiveness are linked together, and to the promise of new life in Christ.
“Rise!” Jesus says. “Pick up your mat and go home.” The helpless man in this week’s Gospel represents all those who have been paralyzed by their sins and unable to move forward with their lives.
Key verse: “Thus says the Lord: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” (Isa 43:18-19).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in the future. Conversion touches the past and the future and is nourished by hope in God’s mercy” (1490).
Benedict XVI: “We know that the faithful are surrounded by a culture that tends to eliminate the sense of sin and to promote a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental Communion worthily. The loss of a consciousness of sin always entails a certain superficiality in the understanding of God’s love. Bringing out the elements within the rite of Mass that express consciousness of personal sin and, at the same time, of God’s mercy, can prove most helpful to the faithful” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 20).
Life application: The loss of a consciousness of sin results in a superficial spirituality that makes it hard to get the most out of Mass. Lent offers a new chance to put our spiritual house in order. If you’ve been dragging around some nagging sins and haven’t been to confession in awhile, now is a great time to put those sins behind you, receive forgiveness and renew your relationship with God. Resolving to make confession a regular part of your life is a great way to begin Lent.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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