Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Son of God and Sinners

 Jesus went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them.  

As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed Jesus.

James Tissot, "Jesus Has Supper With Matthew"
While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 

Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 

Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk 2:13-17).

 The Catechism opens up the Scriptures to us.  Read Scripture and the Catechism together daily!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Jesus Christ as the Only Son of God

Jesus and Israel

574 From the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy him (Cf. Mk 3:6; 14:1). Because of certain acts of his expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the Sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners (Cf. Mt 12:24; Mk 2:7, 14-17; 3:1-6; 7:14-23) -- some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession (Cf. Mk 3:22; Jn 8:48; 10:20). He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning (Cf. Mk 2:7; Jn 5:18; Jn 7:12, 7:52; 8:59; 10:31, 33).

575 Many of Jesus' deeds and words constituted a "sign of contradiction” (Lk 2:34), but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply "the Jews” (Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19), than for the ordinary People of God (Jn 7:48-49). To be sure, Christ's relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting (Cf Lk 13:31); Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes (Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1). Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God's people: the resurrection of the dead (Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39), certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer) (Cf. Mt 6:18), the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor (Cf. Mk 12:28-34).


587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel's religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them (Cf. Lk 2:34; 20:17-18; Ps 118:22).

588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves (Cf. Lk 5:30; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1). Against those among them "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others," Jesus affirmed: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 18:9; 5:32; cf. Jn 7:49; 9:34). He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves (Cf. Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41).

589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's own attitude toward them (Cf. Mt 9:13; Hos 6:6). He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet (Cf. Lk 15:1-2, 22-32). But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk 2:7). By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God's equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God's name (Cf. Jn 5:18; 10:33; 17:6, 26).

590 Only the divine identity of Jesus' person can justify so absolute a claim as "He who is not with me is against me;" and his saying that there was in him "something greater than Jonah,. . . greater than Solomon", something "greater than the Temple"; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord (Cf. Mt 12:6, 30, 36, 37, 41-42), and his affirmations, "Before Abraham was, I AM", and even "I and the Father are one” (Jn 8:58; 10:30).

591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father's works which he accomplished (Jn 10:36-38). But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new "birth from above" under the influence of divine grace (Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44). Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises (Cf. Isa 53:1) allows one to understand the Sanhedrin's tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer (Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66). The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of "ignorance" and the "hardness" of their "unbelief" (Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Your Faith Has Made You Well; Go in Peace

Jesus Heals the Paralytic

Mattheus Merian, "La guérison du paralytique" 1630

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.

They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what  they were thinking to themselves,  so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” –he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once,  and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mk 2:1-12)

The Catechism opens up the Scriptures to us. Read Scripture and the Catechism together daily!

 The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Prayer in the Christian Life


2616 Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper, Jairus, the Canaanite woman, the good thief) (Cf. Mk 1:40-41; 5:36; 7:29; Cf. Lk 23:39-43), or in silence (the bearers of the paralytic, the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes, the tears and ointment of the sinful woman) (Cf. Mk 25; 5:28; Lk 7:37-38). The urgent request of the blind men, "Have mercy on us, Son of David" or "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" has-been renewed in the traditional prayer to Jesus known as the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!" (Mt 9:27, Mk 10:48) Healing infirmities or forgiving sins, Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith: "Your faith has made you well; go in peace" (Cf. Mk 5:34, 10:52; Lk 17:19).

1420 Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life "in earthen vessels," and it remains "hidden with Christ in God" (
2 Cor 4:7; Col 3:3). We are still in our "earthly tent," subject to suffering, illness, and death (2 Cor 5:1). This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.

1421 The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health (
Cf. Mk 2:1-12), has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. 

Lord, Teach us to Pray (Part III)

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. (John 14:26)
The Catechism opens up the Scriptures to us. Read Scripture and the Catechism together daily!

 The Catechism of the Catholic Church 
on Prayer in the Christian Life 
"The Finding in the Temple"
The Gospel of Luke: Prayer in Jesus' Life and Ministry

2599 The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin also learned to pray according to his human heart. He learns the formulas of prayer from his mother, who kept in her heart and meditated upon all the "great things" done by the Almighty (Cf. Lk 1:49; 2:19; 2:51). 

He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple at Jerusalem. But his prayer springs from an otherwise secret source, as he intimates at the age of twelve: "I must be in my Father's house" (Lk 2:49). Here the newness of prayer in the fullness of time begins to be revealed: his filial prayer, which the Father awaits from his children, is finally going to be lived out by the only Son in his humanity, with and for men. 

2600 The Gospel according to St. Luke emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of prayer in Christ's ministry. Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission: before his Father's witness to him during his baptism and Transfiguration, and before his own fulfillment of the Father's plan of love by his Passion (Cf. Lk 3:21; 9:28; 22:41-44). He also prays before the decisive moments involving the mission of his apostles: at his election and call of the Twelve, before Peter's confession of him as "the Christ of God," and again that the faith of the chief of the Apostles may not fail when tempted (Cf. Lk 6:12; 9:18-20; 22:32). Jesus' prayer before the events of salvation that the Father has asked him to fulfill is a humble and trusting commitment of his human will to the loving will of the Father. 

2601 "He was praying in a certain place and when he had ceased, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray"' (Lk 11:1). In seeing the Master at prayer the disciple of Christ also wants to pray. By contemplating and hearing the Son, the master of prayer, the children learn to pray to the Father. 

James Tissot, "Jesus went out into a Desert Place"
2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night (Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16). He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that "his brethren" experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them (Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15). It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

Tissot, "The Pharisee and the Publican"
2613 Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke: 

- The first, "the importunate friend" (Cf. Lk 11:5-13), invites us to urgent prayer: "Knock, and it will be opened to you." To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will "give whatever he needs," and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.

- The second, "the importunate widow" (Cf. Lk 18:1-8), is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
- The third parable, "the Pharisee and the tax collector" (Cf. Lk 18:9-14), concerns the humility of the heart that prays. "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" The Church continues to make this prayer its own: Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lord, Teach us to Pray (Part II)

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. (John 14:26)

The Catechism opens up the Scriptures to us.
Read Scripture and the Catechism together daily!
James Tissot, "The Lord's Prayer" 1886-96

on Prayer in the Christian Life 

2598 The drama of prayer is fully revealed to us in the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer. 

Prayer requires conversion and faith

2607 When Jesus prays, he is already teaching us how to pray. His prayer to his Father is the theological path (the path of faith, hope, and charity) of our prayer to God. But the Gospel also gives us Jesus' explicit teaching on prayer. Like a wise teacher he takes hold of us where we are and leads us progressively toward the Father. Addressing the crowds following him, Jesus builds on what they already know of prayer from the Old Covenant and opens to them the newness of the coming Kingdom. Then he reveals this newness to them in parables. Finally, he will speak openly of the Father and the Holy Spirit to his disciples who will be the teachers of prayer in his Church.

2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else (Cf. Mt 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7, 14-15, 21, 25, 33). This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

2609 Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to "seek" and to "knock," since he himself is the door and the way (Cf. Mt 7:7-11, 13-14).

2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: "all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22). Jesus is as saddened by the "lack of faith" of his own neighbors and the "little faith" of his own disciples (Mk 6:6; Mt 8:26), as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman (Cf. Mt 8:10; 15:28).

2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying "Lord, Lord," but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father (Cf. Mt 7:21). Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan (Cf. Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2; Jn 4:34).

Tissot, "He Went Through the Villages on the Way to Jerusalem"
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest"  (Mt 9:38).