“The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise”. These words were proclaimed in today’s holy Gospel.
Jesus has only 1 mission: to reveal the totality of who the Father is. Jesus’ whole life was focused on thinking like the Father, speaking like the Father and acting like the Father.
In today’s Gospel, the Jewish leaders grumble that “Jesus was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God”. The Jewish leaders are correct: Jesus is equal to God. Whoever hears Jesus, hears God. Whoever sees Jesus sees God.
Jesus is God wrapped in human flesh. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Everything that God has ever communicated to humanity, everything that God wants to communicate to us now and everything God will ever want to communicate to human beings is contained in the person Jesus. There are no improvements that God can make to communicate his message to us. He has done it all perfectly in Jesus.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm offers an excellent example that Jesus acts only as the Father acts. The refrain of today’s Psalm is: “The Lord is kind and merciful”. These words reveal a major characteristic of the Father: he is merciful.
As I have shared with you before, it is important to define the term, “mercy”. Mercy is comprised of 3 characteristics.
The 1st characteristic is compassion. Compassion means to suffer with, to suffer together. To be compassionate is not to remain indifferent to the pain of others. To be compassionate is to say, “Your burden is my burden; your tears are my tears”. The 2nd characteristic of mercy is forgiveness. Forgiveness pardons a person for an offence without treating the individual like a criminal or harboring resentment against him or her. The final characteristic of mercy is unconditional love. This type of love is constant and unending. Each of these traits can exist in isolation. However, when all 3 are present at the same time, we call that “mercy”.
Since the Father is merciful, Jesus makes the Father’s mercy visible, concrete and real. The 1st line of the today’s Gospel is: “Jesus healed a man who was paralyzed on the Sabbath”. The line refers to the incident recounted in yesterday’s Gospel where, as you will recall, Jesus heals a man who has been ill for 38 years. Jesus shows great mercy in this situation.
First, Jesus is compassionate. Jesus sees the man lying on his mat next to the pool. He knows he has been there a long time. Yet, no one has helped to put him into the pool. Or, someone else always beats him into the pool. The man is used to being rejected, isolated and excluded. When Jesus realizes the man’s dire predicament, he says to the man, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Immediately, the man is healed.
Second, Jesus is forgiving. Jesus’ healing power has touched the man both on the outside and the inside. Jesus says to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you”.
Third, Jesus is loving. Although it is the Sabbath, Jesus is not like the religious leaders who are obsessed with the external observances of rules and rituals. Jesus does not want to delay restoring this man to health and wholeness even though he knows his decision will infuriate the authorities. Jesus acts only with the greater good and welfare of the person in mind. That’s his priority!
God treats us the same way the Jesus treated this paralyzed man. God is perfect mercy. There are no mistakes in the way God shows us his mercy. God’s mercy is about giving us 5, 500, 5,000 chances when we don’t even deserve a 2nd chance.
In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis writes, “We stand before a God who knows our sins, our betrayals, our denials. And yet, he is there waiting for us. He never tires of opening the doors of his heart and repeating that he loves us and forgives us.” The bottom line is that God’s mercy is stronger and more powerful than any human sin or human evil.
How can we be certain that all this is true? The answer is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What a blessing we have in this sacrament. This sacrament is God’s gift to us. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we encounter the same Jesus that the man who had been ill for 38 years met.
Pope Francis’ prayer intention for the month of March is for a renewed experience of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In his March 2021 prayer intention video, the Pope said: “When I go to confession, it is in order to be healed, to heal my soul. To leave with greater spiritual health. To pass from misery to mercy.” Francis emphasized that “the center of confession is not the sins we declare, but the divine love we receive, of which we are always in need.” Jesus, who waits for us, listens to us, and forgives us, is the center of confession, the pope said.
“The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise”. As our Eucharist continues, let us never forget that God is “kind and merciful”. Therefore, Jesus acts in the same way: he is kind and merciful. Let us not be afraid to go to Jesus in his Sacrament. Jesus does not bring a big stick or condemnation. Jesus only has the capacity for compassion, forgiveness and love that is beyond all telling.
Amen. March 17, 2021 Deacon Roland Muzzatti