Thanks for joining me as we Lectio the Liturgy with the Collect for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to attain your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
I have no idea where it came from, but as I studied this prayer, what came to my mind was the story about the paralytic who was lowered through the roof to Jesus. I’m sure you know it, it’s the one where the house where Jesus was speaking was so full that the friends of the paralytic broke open the roof and lowered the man down, right there in front of Jesus. Do you remember the first thing Jesus said him? It wasn’t “pick up your mat and walk.” It was, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” The sick man didn’t ask for this, and yet it held a much greater benefit than walking.
We don’t know what was in the man’s heart and we don’t know what sins he had. Even though he couldn’t walk, he had wandered off of the right path. Why would Jesus forgive his sins first? St. Chrysostom said that the soul is so much more than the body that it is a greater thing to forgive sin than to heal the body. To prove the greater miracle, which could not be seen, which was the forgiveness of the man’s sins, Jesus heals the man’s body, which was the lesser, but more evident miracle.
The Pharisees were looking for a visible display of power, and they eventually got one, but Jesus wanted to show them and us, that that there are more important things at stake than the outward sign. The condition of our soul is His highest priority, and He offers his pardon and mercy overabundantly for our salvation. In fact, David writes that the power of his love and mercy is as high as the heavens and as wide as east is from the west (Ps. 103:11-12).
We pray for miracles, we pray for healing, for ourselves and for others, but perhaps the miracles will come more often and more quickly, if we would start by asking Jesus to show us his power by making our souls right with him, by forgiving us and immersing us in his mercy. Hearts that are healed from sin and from wounds are some of the biggest miracles I’ve seen. Some physical healings can only come after a spiritual healing. Perhaps that’s why Jesus gave his forgiveness to the paralytic first.
Next in the prayer, we ask God for grace and to make heirs of those who are hastening to attain his promises of heaven.
Notice that we asking God to make us hasten to gain the right things: the treasures of heaven. What does it mean to hasten? Anyone who has tried to get to the grocery store before it closes (that’s 7:00 pm for me!) knows what it means to hasten. We’re moving forward with a purpose. Spiritually, hasten means more than meandering along in our faith.
St. Chrysostom wrote that hasten is not just about faith,"but we must also strive all our life by good works to render ourselves worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven.” His example is the Israelites, who were freed from slavery and grumbled and complained, and were not allowed to enter their land of promise, which foreshadows heaven. It’s interesting to think about how our journey today isn’t much different. Do we stumble from one trial to the next and mumble the whole way or are our eyes set on the Promised Land of heaven?
Do not fear to fail, because just as God is forgiving and merciful, he gives us his grace. We don’t deserve it. We can’t even earn it. Our all-powerful ever-loving God is waiting to lavish his love and mercy on us.
Lectio the Liturgy: Of all the miracles Jesus has done in your life, the greatest ones are forgiving your sins and showing you his mercy. How can the forgiveness and mercy he has given to you help you to help others to hasten along on their journey as well?