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.
Fergus Kerr OP, author of the highly significant book Theology after Wittgenstein (first published in 1986), identified two great pathologies of the western mind: 1. the divide between the individual and the community, and 2. the divide between body and mind; and he showed how Wittgenstein’s philosophy represents a healing of these divides.
In today’s gospel reading we see how close this is to the healing work of Jesus. In the story we see both of these divides being bridged by Jesus.
The two great divides were expressed together in a leaflet that was handed out at a parish mission in my childhood. On it were written the words: “Remember, man, thou hast but one soul to save. And after that, the judgment.” (There were no women in the world in those days!) There is no mention of community; and there was no life of the body. There was just one soul. And the appeal was to fear, not to love. It was a far cry from St Paul’s teaching that we are the body of Christ and members of one another: see Col 1:18; Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:13). Pius XII attempted to reinvigorate this teaching in 1943 in an encyclical letter entitled Mystici Corporis. "The unbroken tradition of the Fathers from the earliest times,” he wrote, “teaches that the Divine Redeemer and the Church which is His Body form but one mystical person, that is to say, the whole Christ." We still have much need for healing at these two sick places of the soul.
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