The Epistle to the Hebrews begins today: ““At the beginning, O Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; and they will all grow old like a garment. You will roll them up like a cloak, and like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” In the first part of the journey we call the Great Fast, we remembered first the story of creation, and how God found it very good. But at the end of these two weeks, we heard that because of our sins, “The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved. So the Lord said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created. (Genesis 6:6-7)” What is the inspired Scripture telling us – that the human race is completely broken and dysfunctional because we have refused to follow God’s loving providence? The Gospel (Mark 2:1-12) becomes a key hinge in this story. The paralytic man lowered through the roof is a symbol of our crippled, broken and dysfunctional human race. Fortunately, there are still some who know this and want to help heal it – the four friends who lower the broken man through the roof. And the healing follows, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’” (v. 5) We are broken and sinners, but if we can have faith, creation can be made good again – this is our hope. Sin is an offense against God, so those who do not have faith grumble, “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (v. 7) Who but God alone can repair the damage done by rebellion against his plan? And so this story is key in the Gospel, Jesus is God, the Son of the Father, as he created the world, and is always “the same.,” he alone can repair the damage. To prove this, he makes the man to walk again. But Jesus is also a human being, and as such, has imparted the power to forgive sin to the Church, which is his body, and in which we find healing and forgiveness. This is truly a mystery beyond expression. Yet a further point can be made.
We have a saying, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Sin can only be forgiven through the Church by the power of the Spirit, but we do have the human power to forgive one another the trespasses we have between each other, and in so doing, we imitate God, who has created all for unity and forgiveness, and who commanded us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who trespass against us,” and Jesus adds, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) We can believe in God only if we are willing to forgive and to be forgiven. This alone is of God.