We began this Lenten journey hearing the Gospel theme: ―This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel!‖ (Mk. 1:15) Altered slightly, ―Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel‖ while ashes were placed on our forehead.
After Jesus was baptized he was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit for forty days where he was ―tempted by Satan… and the angels ministered to him.‖ (Mk. 1:13)
Jesus overcame Satan‘s temptations by prayer, fasting and quoting the Bible correctly. Satan quotes the Bible too, but misinterprets it, and Jesus was quick to remind him, and all of us, that all are to worship God above all things.
―But why does God permit Satan to exist, and to tempt us?‖ These are good questions. We need to understand that God created all the angels to be good, including Lucifer, with an intellect and free will, that they might choose to worship God and serve his plans forever. Be-cause their angelic intellect and free will make up their bodiless spirit, which is everlasting, angels will always exist, and cannot die. Lucifer became Satan who chose not to worship God and hated the thought that the Son of God, out of love for us, would take on our human nature in order to die and redeem us from sin and his enslavement.
We too have an everlasting spirit, which is made up of a human intellect and free will, and we also have a body, both of which are wounded and can keep us from thinking about our everlasting soul. Like the angels, we too have a choice to make, to worship God or not. Since we sometimes sin we die, and thus God calls our soul to leave our body to be judged, which is justifiable because God gives us every good thing. However, if we repent of our sins and die in the state of grace, we will live forever with God, because we chose to accept and bring God‘s healing love and truth to others. If, however, we die with mortal sin on our soul, we will be enslaved by Sa-tan forever because we chose our own way instead of God‘s way of holiness.
When Jesus began his public ministry at age 30, he brought God‘s healing to those who were sick and cast out demons, the fallen angels who possessed people to some degree or other. ―He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons …‖ (Mk. 1:34)
At one point, four men brought a paralytic to Christ, but because of the crowd, they opened up the roof and lowered the man down to Jesus. This demonstrated their faith in Christ and their persistent love for a friend!
Jesus saw their faith and love, and said to the paralytic, ―‗Your sins are forgiven.‘ Now the scribes said…, He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?‘‖ So true! But God had become man in Jesus Christ! And Christ tells them, ―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.‘‖ And he did, and all praised God! (See Mark 2:9-12)
After forming the Twelve Apostles for over three years to be the servant leaders of his Church, Jesus gave them the Eucharist at the Last Supper, died on the cross on Good Friday, resurrected on the first Easter Sunday, and then gave his Apostles the power to forgive sins in his Name, which is handed on to his Catholic bishops and priests of today. For on the night of his resurrection Jesus breathed on his Apostles the Holy Spirit and said, ―Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are for-given them, and whose sins you retain are retained.‖ (See John 20:20-23)
As we enter into Holy Week, let us choose to be like those four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus Christ in order to receive healing and the forgiveness of sins. For Jesus Christ won all these saving graces for us by his Paschal Mystery, of which we remember and enter into this Holy Week.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe