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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins

The Word This Week

There are many “themes” running through the Gospel today—faith, perseverance, healing—which seem dramatic to us. But the theme highlighted by our first reading is that of the power of Jesus to forgive sins—something that would perhaps have been more remarkable in his own time. Saint Mark is clearly revealing to us something important about Jesus of Nazareth—something which shocks and surprises the scribes listening to Jesus. Such an immediate forgiveness of sins was, to them, new and disturbing. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we take forgiveness for granted sometimes: when the paralytic, after all the struggles and efforts of his family and friends, heard Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven”, was he disappointed or delighted?

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 43:18-19.21-22.24-25

This is poetry (the way it is arranged in the Lectionary tells you that) - remember this when you read. Here God is in a reflective mood—musing on the relationship with the people of Israel.  As God muses, a profound announcement is made: God is doing “a new deed”! Since the people have forgotten God, God will “make a road” for them so that they can find their way back—and for this to happen God will blot out the sins of the people—will forgive and forget. In proclaiming this reading, try to keep a reflective tone: the poetry moves from “Recall” in the first line to “remember” in the last—see the shape of this reading. There should be a tone of great tenderness about this—God is truly a loving Father who is eagerly giving the people another chance. Note the negatives: these are the failings (the sins) of the people: “you have NOT invoked have NOT troubled yourself…” Also relish the repetition of “I it is” - the second time must be firmly emphatic.


Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22

You will have to be very careful with the “yes and no” bits of this reading: it is very easy to lose the thread! We jump into this new letter a bit abruptly: Paul is trying to make it clear that he has no “hidden agendas” in his preaching and writing—he means what he says, and is not being crafty or duplicitous. This is what he means by “Yes and No” - saying one thing and meaning another. Paul takes his lead from Jesus— the Word of God, who always said what was true. Here Paul does two things: he reminds the Corinthians that his message comes from Christ, and also that he does so as an anointed minister—he has authority. Perhaps this is the protest of a wronged man. There may be a tone of passionate insistence: try to highlight the words and phrases that give weight to Paul’s teaching authority—and remember that (through you, the reader) he is teaching the congregation today as he taught the people of Corinth long ago!


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