Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Year B Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 2: 1 – 12

Lord, your word has many shades of meaning, just as those who study it have many different points of view.  You have coloured your words with many hues so that each person who studies it can see in it what he loves.

Lord, your Word is a tree of life that offers blessed fruit in abundance.

Like the rock gushing water in the desert it is for each of us a refreshing fountain.

“All ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink.”    St Ephrem

So often when we read a familiar text we mutter to ourselves, “Oh, my goodness what am I going to get from this?  I really have exhausted all this text has to say to me!”  This is just the moment that God is waiting for to surprise you with a new insight.  Go to this text with an open mind, confident that your Father has some special insight for you.  Do not be discouraged if nothing happens immediately.  Hang in there, and God will speak in His good time.

Now pray the prayer above slowly and with special attentiveness.


Mark loves to present his teaching stories in threes.  Our story is the first of a triad.

2: 1 – 12          Healing and forgiveness are linked – “A new understanding?”

2: 13 – 15        Jesus entertains sinners – “Can you believe it?”

2: 23 – 28        Sabbath observance – “Sabbath is for the benefit of humanity!”

Each one of these stories presents Jesus thinking, in stark contrast to the prevailing teaching and understanding of God.  He paints a very different picture to that which was taught by the “experts” of the time.  Pray for the openness that will enable you to grow in understanding God as Jesus did.

NOTE: Please approach this commentary as it is presented.  Each of the FIVE parts should give you material for FIVE periods of prayer and reflection.


Time now to read and re-read our text.  I have marked in colour the words that reflect Jesus’ teaching.

1When Jesus returned to Capernaum some time later, word went round the he was at home; 2and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door.  He was preaching the word to them 3when some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, 4but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay.  5Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic,

“My child, your sins are forgiven.”  6Now some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, 7”How can this man talk like this?  He is blaspheming.

Who can forgive sins but God?  

 8Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, “Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts?  9Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’?

10But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic –

“I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.” 

12And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

* * * * * * *

Before we start to reflect on this passage we need to be aware that each section in colour offers us the opportunity to:

READ and assimilate the text.  We allow the text to speak to us just as Jesus “preached the Word;”

come to a deeper understanding (RECOGNISE) of what Mark and Jesus are saying to us;

RESPOND (Prayer) in the words of Scripture.

How wonderful, as each time our insight into the Word grows, we respond in prayer using the words of this scripture, “I am truly astounded!  Lord I praise You!  I have never seen anything like this!”

* * * * * * *

He was preaching the word

In 1: 39 the story is situated in the synagogue.  Here it is in Jesus’ home.  The Word, Scripture, our living out our spirituality and religious practice is also situated in our homes.  The recent Synod on the Word, proposition 20 makes this very call.  Listening to the Word is integral to our daily spirituality.



* * * * * * *

they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was

they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay.

In 1: 10 – 11 the heavens are opened and God’s voice is heard.  We have an interesting link here, where, again, the barrier between Jesus and humanity (the paralytic and his helpers) is removed.  Mark is telling us that Jesus continually opens things up.  Here and in the rest of this chapter, Mark shows Jesus opening up a new understanding of sinfulness and forgiveness.1

Note that we have to come down to the level of Jesus present in the community.  It is in the community that healing and forgiveness take place.


* * * * * * *

My child, your sins are forgiven.

I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher, and go off home.

Mark’s thinking is more accurately reflected by using, your sins are ‘released’ or ‘let go.’  He wants us to understand that evil binds us, but God sets us free.  We find this same thought expressed when the Gospel tells us that Simon and Andrew ‘let go’ of their nets and the fever ‘lets go’ of Simon’s mother-in-law.  Just think of all the things that can bind us, fear, insecurity, ignorance, laziness, envy, lust, pride.

Jesus equates forgiveness of sin with healing.  Forgiveness is an act of healing.  Jesus shows us that to forgive someone is to heal them.  “Mark thus implies that all of Jesus’ acts of healing are theological symbols of God’s desire to forgive us and make us whole.”    By linking healing and forgiveness Jesus is teaching us that it is God’s will to forgive rather than punish, to heal rather than to hurt.2

These very same words, “My child, your sins are forgiven”, are addressed to us and we in our turn are called upon to say them to others.  Listen to Jesus saying these words to us, then say then to others and particularly to yourself.


* * * * * * *

“Who can forgive sins but God?” and the answer is, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

Please call to mind the prayer of St Ephrem that we prayed earlier.   ‘There are many understandings and shades of meaning for the Word of God.’  Here is food for thought.  Frequently Jesus refers to himself in the gospels as ‘Son of Man’.  This simply means ‘human being.

What is man that you should be mindful of him,

or the son of man ( humanity / a human) that you should care for him.   Ps 8: 5

Mark was not giving Jesus a special a title he is rather emphasizing his common humanity with us.

Jesus is teaching that humans are called to forgive one another.  In doing this they imitate God’s forgiveness.  This is not the only time that Jesus will come with this ‘new’ teaching in Mark’s Gospel.


* * * * * * *

In the centre of this passage Mark places a riddle.

9Which of these is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’?

Now a riddle is there to make us stop and think.  At first glance the answer is, it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven”.  Of course it is easier because there is no way of proving that they have not been forgiven.  However, think about situations in your own life or in history where there is need for forgiveness and it has not been forth-coming.  Hurts are remembered for years, hundreds of years and feelings of bitterness continue to cripple the lives of people.

Which of these is easier?

Lord, who can grasp all the wealth of just one of your words?

What we understand in the Bible is much less than what we leave behind,

like thirsty people who drink from a fountain.

Lord, you have hidden many treasures in your Word so that each of us in enriched as we meditate upon it.         St Ephrem


  1. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: Mark, p 25
  2. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: Mark, p 26
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