You too can move mountains – Thursday, 13th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 9:1-8
Chapter nine of the Gospel of Matthew has the last of the four miracle narratives. The first six were in chapter eight. Chapter nine also has Jesus calling Matthew to be an apostle and his is followed by a teaching on discipleship. It then winds down, giving way to the second of Matthew’s discourse in chapter ten; the mission discourse.
But chapter nine will also see the first sparks of confrontation that Jesus will have with the scribes (9:3), the Pharisees (9:11) and even with the disciples of his own cousin, John the Baptist (9:14). The passage of today has Jesus healing a paralytic. It is the first time that the Gospel of Matthew records the growing hostility between Jesus and the religious establishment of his time and in this case the ones who take umbrage at him are the scribes.
The Greek word ‘grammateus,’ translated scribe, means writer. The scribes were the ones who drew up legal documents. They also copied the Old Testament Scripture and devoted themselves to the study of the law, and the determination of its applications on daily life. They also studied the Scripture with respect to doctrinal and historical matters. Noted scribes had their own disciples and many of the scribes were members of the Jewish council.
We are no strangers to the healing power of Jesus. On this occasion, it is the power of petition that prompts Jesus to heal a paralysed man. Perhaps this miracle would have been without incident if Jesus simply took the man’s hand like he did with Peter’s mother-in-law. But St Matthew wants to make a point. Jesus is not just some wonder working miracle man; he is the Son of God whom even satan, who had possessed two men in Gadara, acknowledged as being so. For St Matthew, while Jesus has the ability to heal, he has even more, the authority to take away sins that were seen as the cause of illness.
His proclamation, “take heart son, your sins are forgiven” causes the scribes to be agitated. The scriptures do not tell us that they objected vociferously. Rather we are told that they had “evil thoughts in their hearts;” for they called him a blasphemer. This was the very charge that they brought against him at his trial (Matthew 26:65). The scribes correctly understood that Jesus claimed to do something that only God can do. But they were incorrect in assuming that Jesus was not God Himself.
Our Lord did not seek disputes. Yet when evil sets in our hearts we become the agents of satan and evil and then we are capable of attacking even our Lord. The evil in our mind pollutes our hearts, pushing us to train our guns against good men and women and turning the forces of evil against them. It is the little things, that we need to guard our heart from.
Finally, the Lord today was prompted to work a miracle looking at the faith of the friends of the paralytic. The paralytic perhaps had no faith at all; at least the Gospel does not seem to mention it explicitly. He was obedient, he took his mat and went home when he was told but as far as faith, we are told nothing. But it is the faith of the friends with which I want to end this reflection.
If there is anything that hits home in this text, it is the power of intercessory prayer. I have bemoaned the way the ‘prayers of the faithful’ are written and even more, prayed at Sunday mass. On one or two occasions in my parish, I have urged members in the congregation to come forward and make a spontaneous prayer. The silence that follows would make any school teacher ecstatic; but it is heart breaking for the minister. It is a moment when he realises how poor our faith is and how limited are our expressions.
We have failed to encourage spontaneous intercessory prayer. Such prayer when made in faith, moves mountains. It does not have to be wordy but simple words that come from the heart. ‘Heal a sister who has cancer Lord’, Help my neighbour get a job lord,’ ‘take care of our doctors and nurses who care for the sick.’ The list can be endless. The friends of the paralytic had their petition heard because they believed. Today, you can move mountains as you pray for those who are in need of your prayers for them.