What the Pharisees were missing in this gospel story was that there is something that paralyzes a person much worse than any physical thing, and that something, of course, is sin. And if you’ve ever found yourself caught up in a pattern of sin in your life, of if you’ve ever struggled with any kind of addiction, or if a sin you have committed has ever made you too ashamed to move forward in a relationship or ministry or responsibility, or if you have ever been around someone afflicted this way, then you know the paralysis this poor man was suffering on that stretcher. Sin is that insidious thing that ensnares us and renders us helpless, because we cannot defeat it no matter how hard we try. That’s just the way sin works on us.
But it’s not supposed to be that way. We cannot just raise our hands and say, hey, I’m only human, because nothing makes us less human than sin. Jesus, in addition to being divine, of course, was the most perfectly human person that ever lived, and he never sinned. So from this we should certainly take away that sin does not make us human, and that sin is not part of human nature.
And it doesn’t have to stay that way. We’re not supposed to stay bound up on our stretchers forever. We’re supposed to get ourselves to Jesus, or if need be, like the man in the gospel today, get taken to him by friends, because it is only Jesus that can free us. That’s why the church prays, in the prayer of absolution in the Sacrament of Penance, “May God give you pardon and peace.”
Freed from the bondage of our sins by Jesus who is our peace, we can stand up with the lame man from the gospel and go on our way, rejoicing in God. We can rejoice in our deliverance with Isaiah who proclaimed, “Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”