Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Feast of St. Jerome,
"the greatest Doctor of the Church" (Pope Benedict XV) who gave Christendom the Latin Vulgate of the Sacred Scriptures
From the eighth chapter of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, the progress from the immediate cure of fever to the command over nature and to the deliverance of souls from demonic possessions brings us today (Mt. 9.1-8) to the climactic exhibition of a power that truly belongs to God alone: Who can forgive sins, but God only? (Mk. 2.7).
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in asserting His divine prerogatives, against which some of the Jewish scholars on the Law (the Scribes) accused Him of blasphemy – the same charge for which the Christ was finally condemned by the Sanhedrin to die the death on the Cross – utters to the man sick of palsy: … Thy sins are forgiven thee (v.2). Thus, the miracle God works is now more than a mere sensible wonder.
Faith in Jesus Christ is an implicit confession of sin and of repentance unto penance (Rom. 8.13; Col. 3.5). Therefore, “it elicits,” says a Jesuit Old Testament professor, “not a divine response to be tested by observation but a declaration of forgiveness of sins” – the miracle which escapes not only the Jewish scholars in the Gospel but also their modern-day kindred: the agnostics and materialist-atheists (in their relative “If there is God…” paradigm). The afflictions of the fallen human condition are the consequences of sin – a deliberate and free-willing non serviam (“I will not serve,”): I will be like the Most High! (Is. 14.14, cf., our post yesterday “Quis ut Deus” on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel) – and the forgiveness and remission of sins through the Blood of the divine Lamb, once physically shed on Calvary and being truly, really yet mystically poured forth on the Christian high altar (Heb. 13.10), extirpates the root of evil. Unless sin is cured, there is no genuine remedy for genuine human ills – his moral and spiritual disorders that come from man’s independence from God. This, according to the same Professor, “is the fullness of [Christ’s] saving power – not the mere power of thaumaturgy – that causes men to glorify God.”