We have two beautiful homilies by Father Hanly for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: “Sin and Forgiveness” and the wonderful “‘Your Sins Are Forgiven You.'”
Sin and Forgiveness
In this beautiful homily for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly looks at sin and forgiveness, and helps us to understand that sin is really a refusal to love and to commit a sin is very often to break a heart.
Readings for Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
- First Reading: Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 41:2-3, 4-5, 13-14
- Second Reading: Second Corinthians 1:18-22
- Gospel: Mark 2:1-12
This is a very nice gospel. It’s a charming story. But it’s more than charming. Some of it seems rather humorous at times, especially when the four men, who are bringing their friend on a mat who’s paralyzed, and they can’t get in because the place is so crowded with people.
Jesus has come back early to St. Peter’s house. And as you know, the houses in those days were not that large and so it didn’t take much to fill them. But the scribes and Pharisees get the first seats, so they were there. And the ordinary people were there.
And it was so crowded outside that the four people who were carrying the young man, and wanted so much to help him, they didn’t know what to do.
And then someone had the idea, “Well, let’s go up to the roof and tear the roof apart.” Which probably didn’t matter to Jesus, but it certainly must have mattered to St. Peter, whose house it was.
Anyhow, they went on top of the roof and took the tiles off and cleared a space and then they dropped the paralytic down in front of Jesus.
And I’m sure he must have smiled, because, when he looked up, he saw these four men and there was such yearning in their eyes.
And he opened his mouth for the first time and he said, he said to the child, because it wasn’t a man it was just a little more than a boy, and he said to the child, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
But what he saw in the eyes of his friends was great faith. It was for the first time today I really realized that, when we’re talking about forgiveness, we usually think of me and God, or me and confession, or me and this, and it’s really, it’s really a community project to be healed and to be forgiven by God Himself.
When he says that, of course, the scribes and the Pharisees around, felt…
Mark is very careful. He doesn’t say they said anything. The only words were Jesus saying to the little boy, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
But they thought in their hearts, “How can he say this? How can he say such a thing?”
Because the power to forgive sins is only God’s prerogative. No one can forgive sins, but God alone. No one. And here is this itinerant preacher suddenly saying to the little child, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
It’s still very quiet. The only voice anybody heard was Jesus talking to the child.
And then he looks at the scribes and the Pharisees, and he reads their hearts and he knows that they’re scandalized.
And he says to them, very simply, he says, “What is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’, or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?”
And, so that you might know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins, he turned to the little boy and said, “Rise up, take up your mat and return home.”
And the little boy jumps up and runs out of the house totally delighted, because he’s been healed.
But he must have been healed not only that he could walk and jump and dance, but also because, in his heart, whatever was sickening his own heart, resentments and angers and we can’t even guess, but Jesus could see that it was in there that he needed healing and that is why he said to him first, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The people, when they saw this, they were astounded.
But they weren’t astounded because the little fellow was cured, because they saw cures all the time: spontaneous, long lasting, ones that took years with certain ancient forms of medication and prayer, whatever. So they were quite common.
But they were astounded, as the Pharisees and scribes were upset, because they knew that only God could forgive sins. And they couldn’t understand it.
To understand, I remember, for most of us, I think, the first time we heard forgiveness was when our parents taught us the “Our Father.” You remember that?
“Our Father, who art in heaven.” And I thought Art was another man, because it was short for Arthur.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” I didn’t know what that meant.
“Thy kingdom come.” I kind of knew what that meant.
“Thy will be done.” I knew what that meant.
“On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.” I knew what that meant, because I remember receiving my First Holy Communion. I never quite got over it. I still remember to this day just about everything that took place at that time.
And then it came to the part, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Today, we say, “Forgive us our sins.”
To understand what forgiveness really means, you have to understand what sin really means.
Sometimes we think, especially when you’re speaking in Cantonese or in other forms of Chinese, you say often (Father says something in Chinese). You know very often (Father says something in Chinese) means crime, most of the time, but it also means sin in this context. And so you get the idea that a sin is when you break the Ten Commandments, or you break a precept, or you break a law, or you break something else, but this is what the word sin means.
But it doesn’t.
This word is only used in one context. And the one context it is used in is relationship. You cannot commit a sin without a relationship. You can commit any of the Ten Commandments with no relationship at all. But not a sin. A sin is based on relationship. And it’s based, very often, on personal relationship.
So the Old Testament says God forgives. That meant it is in His power, in His love, in His caring, in His… the fact that He is God, that He forgives.
And what does He forgive?
He forgives everything. God forgives. God creates. God loves. God forgives.
And it is never spoken of forgiveness of a human being, because what sin really means is not breaking a law, it’s breaking a heart. When we say we sin, what we mean…
Well, before I tell you what it means, I’ll tell you a story.
When I was a little boy, not so little, old enough to steal, and I was, kind of got into the habit of it. Nothing too serious, but if you lived in Brooklyn, you learned all kinds of things. And one of the things, you learned how to steal. What I did, I was a petty thief, in a way. And I think my parents knew it, but they didn’t say anything.
But, anyway, one day my father had put some chocolate bars to surprise us at night time. He gave us a bar of chocolate every night. Sometimes he gave up his lunch money to buy this bar of chocolate. But it was just like Holy Communion, you know. Every time, every night, we had a little bar of chocolate.
And he was in the kitchen and he called out to us. My two sisters and I ran into the kitchen. He said, “Did any of you take one of these chocolate bars?”
Well, my older sister was an angel, so everybody knew she didn’t take it. And my little sister was very small, and everybody knew she couldn’t even reach that high. So he looks at me and he says, “Denis, did you take it?” I said, “No.”
But the time when I said no, a great pain was in me, not because I still had that chocolate bar in my room, but I felt that I not only broke a rule, but I could see in his eyes that I had betrayed a love and a trust.
You see, when God speaks of sin, He is speaking of we are breaking His covenant, His loving relationship. We are before Him who has given us everything: His love, His caring. Everything that we have is His. And, suddenly, we turn around and we betray Him with a lie, or we betray Him with doing something that goes against love.
But, basically, a sin is a refusal to love. Sin is an act that goes against love. Because love goes out. And love cares. And this is God. But when we sin everything comes to us in our selfishness, in our carelessness, in our unconcern for others. We are breaking not the law, but we’re breaking a heart.
And that’s why one day Jesus himself comes and he tells us what our sins have done, not only to God, but to the people that He loves. For to commit a sin is to betray a trust. And to commit a sin is very often to break a heart.
On the cross, though, on the cross, when we see the truth, as we all know. When somebody asks us, “Why did he have to die? Why was he was crucified on the cross?” the answer is always, “He died because of our sins. He died to make up for our sins by an act of love, making up for an act of betrayal.”
And this is a very, very strong idea that runs through all of the Catholic world. We are the forgiven sinners. We are the ones who are pledged to love, loyalty and trust, to the goodness of the love and loyalty of God Himself.
Lent then, Lent is easily explained as not a season to do penance…
I remember when I was a child, when Lent came, my mother would say, “Now, remember, no more movies.” Wow, that was one half of my life. “No more chocolate.” That was the other half. And anything that was good and wonderful and beautiful to a child is taken from you. And I was so happy I didn’t live in a time of television, or they would have taken the television away from us, too.
And it was always based on what you’re going to give up, what you’re going to give up. And you do it because Jesus gave his life for you. That’s very strong.
But I was slow to understand the deep meaning, and so I used to dislike Lent.
But now I like Lent, because I know more. I know it is a way of learning how to love, learning how to love the way God loves, learning how to love the way Jesus loves.
And he is with us to teach us.
And it doesn’t matter if you fail, if you fail and fail and fail.
And your goal is to learn how to love as God loves.
But every failure is another reason to give joy to God, for this is the only way you learn. You only learn by failure.
And so, as Lent approaches, we should think of this. It is a season in which, together and individually, we learn how to love. And we learn how to be true and faithful to the love of God and His Son Jesus, and to live in their spirit, which is a giving, not a receiving.
It is a constant effort, but it becomes quite easy, because as born into this world sometimes we say, “Why am I here?” and there’s a million responses to that word and that enquiry and that question, but the only true response is, “We are here to learn how to love.”
To close this, I’d like to read a reflection on forgiveness. This was written by an Irish priest (Father Flor McCarthy, SDB):
Forgiveness is like the child’s dream of a miracle.
Through forgiveness what is broken is made whole again,
what is soiled is made clean,
and what is lost is found.
Nothing greater can happen to a human being
than that he or she is forgiven.
Those who are forgiven are no longer trapped in their past.
They are set free – free to move forward again.
The Lord not only forgives our sins,
but helps us to learn from them.
We learn about our own weakness.
We learn about the goodness of God.
And we learn to be compassionate towards others who sin.
And one final word.
We should always remember that when we say, when Jesus says, “Go into the whole world and forgive everyone,” what he means is not with your forgiveness, because Jesus gives us the forgiveness of God.
And with great joy and great faith it is this which we use to forgive others.
And sometimes you say, “It’s so hard to forgive.”
Only if the forgiveness comes from you and me, because we’re just little people.
But if we have been given the forgiveness of God Himself, and this is all we are asked to do, not to stand in the way of the goodness and forgiveness of God to reach every human heart, and then it’s a lot easier to forgive as He forgave, because this kind of forgiveness leads to peace and leads to joy.
“Your Sins Are Forgiven You”
In this wonderful homily for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly helps us understand why Jesus told the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
Readings for Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
- First Reading: Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24-25
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 41:2-3, 4-5, 13-14
- Second Reading: Second Corinthians 1:18-22
- Gospel: Mark 2:1-12
I like this Gospel, and I’ve been trying to figure out different ways to bring my very positive feelings to you as well.
As you know, the writer of this Gospel is St Mark and, as you also know, St Mark tends to be rather brief. His Gospel, if you sat down and read his whole Gospel, you could get up in an hour and ten minutes and you would have finished it.
It’s brief and that means that there are layers and layers of meaning and, because of that, it’s worth reading again and again and again. Because each time you read it, there’s a new feeling about it.
Now, it’s a very simple story: Jesus now has come back after the beginning of preaching his word throughout the area of Galilee and he has come up from the Jordan River.
And he’s beginning to get a bit of a reputation, so that we saw that when he arrived back in Capharnaum, which is the town at the very southern section of the Sea of Galilee, a small fishermen’s village, he was beginning to get to be well known.
He already had at least four or maybe six of his disciples, you’d call them. He was keeping close to St Peter, because he was living in St Peter’s house, and it is there we find him in the Gospel this morning.
He had been preaching a little bit, here and there, but the word got out that the holy man was in town, and, of course, they knew that he was going to be at the home of St Peter. And so what happened was they all gathered there to hear him.
So he’s in the house and you can imagine the house can’t be a beautiful palace or anything like that, because Peter is just a fisherman in a very poor country. But the house is filled with people.
One part of it, of course, the seats of honour go to the men who teach in the village, those who actually are in charge of the teaching on each Saturday, and so these men have a higher place in the village. They’re not Pharisees, they are the Scribes. Now they’re sitting there and they have seats of honour, but everybody kind of floods in and it gets very crowded.
Now, there were four gentlemen who had a mission, and their mission was their friend, a young boy, was very sick. So what they did was, they heard that Jesus was a healer, so they brought their friend on a pallet, and they carried him and they went around the house, this way and that, and they couldn’t get in because the door was locked. There was no way to get into the place and on the outside there were crowds of people.
But somehow, they began to think, and being very industrious young men, what they did was, the only thing open is the roof, can you imagine, the roof? So they climb up on top of the roof and they start taking the roof apart.
We’re so used to this story that we don’t realise if somebody came into your house and took the roof off it, it wouldn’t be the ordinary thing that is done to the occasion.
Anyhow, they’re tearing the roof down, making a big hole in it so that they can take ropes and lower their friend who’s laying on this pallet very sick, you see. And he’s just maybe a young child. We don’t know exactly how old, but he’s not an adult.
Anyhow, you can imagine, the first that comes down from the roof is bits of hay and whatever else they do to make roofs in that area.
And I can just see Jesus sitting there and, all of a sudden, plop! Here comes a little boy on a stretcher and four men looking down with big eyes, really frightened that, “You’ve got to do something, because we’re afraid that our friend is going to die.”
And I’m sure Jesus smiled.
So what did he do?
Well, Jesus looks at the little boy and he says to him…
Well, first of all, he looks at the men and he sees how anxious they are for him and how they want Jesus to do something. And they have faith in Jesus and he sees this faith. And he knew this faith that if you put into a stranger or a relative stranger is very rare and so it touches him.
And, the Gospel says, seeing the faith he has, the faith these four men have, the faith that he would cure this poor little boy, his heart is touched and what he does is, seeing their faith — not the little boy, he’s not asking for anything — seeing their faith, he turns to the little boy and he says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
Now, that might mean something different to everybody, but the basic meaning that Jesus was giving it is: someone in sin is in need of healing.
We think of sin as a crime. Sins are not crimes. Sin is a word that you can only use in relationship. If you commit a crime, they put you in jail. If you commit a sin, you break a heart. Because sin is a relationship, a relationship that should be of love, but it’s cut off.
And so he looks at the little boy and he knows what sin does. He knows the turmoil in the little boy’s heart because he is filled with sin.
Now, I’ll give an example. When I was about nine or ten years old – no, I was younger, I was about, yeah, eight or nine – the age that some children, namely me, turn to stealing, do you know, kind of picking things up and putting them in your pocket and walking on.
And my father, every night, poor man that he was, would save a little money by not eating much, and buy chocolate bars, little chocolate bars for me, my two sisters and my mother. And he had brought the chocolate bars home and he put them in the fridge. I think it wasn’t a fridge yet, it was an ice box, because we lived out in Long Island at that time.
And, of course, I saw the candy and I figured, well, I’ll swipe one of the candy bars. And I did. And I took it and I really enjoyed it. It was a very nice candy bar. He used to give us a bar of candy every night before we went to bed.
And then, when he came home from work, he went to take the candy bars and give them as he did — after supper he’d give one to each of us and to my mother. It was his holy communion really (chuckles). It was his way of saying we can’t break bread together, we don’t have enough money for lots of other things, but candy bars are candy bars and they have a certain way of bringing everyone together.
But one was missing. And my father was very surprised and so he said in quite a loud voice, he said, “Who took the candy bar?”
And, of course, I walked in with my two sisters. And my sister Peggy, who was a saint, he said, “Peggy, did you take the candy bar?”
And, of course, Peggy being a saint and big sister and everything else, said, “No Dad, I didn’t take the candy bar.”
My little sister was only about four, and he said, “Ann, did you take the candy bar?”
And she said, “No, I didn’t, Dad.”
And then he turned to me, who was the obvious thief, and he said, “Denis, did you steal the candy bar?”
And I said, “Oh no, Dad, I didn’t take the candy bar.”
End of story?
No, everybody in the room knew I took the candy bar, and I felt terrible. I felt so terrible, I tell the story now fifty years later from when it happened, and I can remember it vividly.
Why? Why? Because I got caught stealing a candy bar?
No, I used to get caught stealing a lot of things, but it never bothered me, I never remembered them. But what bothered me was the goodness of my father, that I lied to him.
And then I knew that I wasn’t going to sleep for a long time, because the feeling was I’d betrayed him. I’d betrayed his trust and all these things. But I wouldn’t admit anything, and on the outside I was just my cheerful self.
And my father, saint that he is, never even mentioned it. He took my mother’s candy bar, broke it in half, and …
I was feeling a terrible guilt and I knew from that moment on what sin was. Sin wasn’t doing something outside or being naughty or anything like that. Sin was what sin means – you can only sin if you have a relationship. Everything else is a crime. If you steal something and they catch you, it’s a crime, it’s not a sin. A sin breaks a heart.
So whenever I read this story, I think not only just of this little boy. When Jesus says to him, instead of saying, “Be healed and jump up and make everybody happy,” he says to him, “My little child, all your sins are forgiven,” I know what he means.
He means that yes, you’ve done a terrible thing. Yes, something awful is happening to you and you’re full of turmoil and you’re full of anger and you’re laying there and some people say you’re going to die, and others no, and you’ve got four friends with great love in their heart, hovering, looking down through the window.
And, of course, then you have the Scribes — not the Pharisees, there were no Pharisees there, but the Scribes, local teachers of the law — and they were thinking in their hearts.
They were thinking, “You can’t say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ because that belongs to God. You can say, ‘I hope God forgives you. I hope this, I hope that.’ But you can never say to another person, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ so directly — not by ‘God will forgive you’, but taking them away on the spot and there.”
And Jesus, being such a wonderful kind person, he knew what was on their mind. And he should have been very angry: how dare they deny the fact that the Son of God has the right to forgive sins — and all the stuff that we would have thrown at them. And he looked at them and he said, “What is easier to say – your sins are forgiven you, or arise and walk?”
And, of course, by this time, the little fellow on the pallet was feeling the great kindness and love of Jesus, and so Jesus lifts him up.
You know that it is the same word as Jesus was lifted up on the cross and died for our sins, you see. And God lifted him up from the death and gave him new life.
So the word is carefully chosen by this wonderful writer, Mark. And he wanted us all to know that sin can kill, because it’s a betrayal, not of other people but of your own heart, which will lead you to a very dangerous place, which is the darkness and the feeling that nobody could possibly love you anymore. It is the end of love.
And Jesus comes in and he says, “Now it’s all forgiven.” So easy.
And so, he then looks at the little boy and does the thing everybody would like to look at, which is the miracle, right?
They don’t know about the little boy’s heart. They don’t care about the relationship. They want to know is Jesus going to heal him.
But the men who love him, that would be enough for them, because they loved him.
Anyhow, he looks at the little boy and he says, “Get up, and go home.”
I love that last statement. He always says that, “Go home,” Jesus does.
Why? Because home is where your true heart is and that’s where you’re going to finally get out of this messy group of people that are looking for miracles and very excited and they want to make Jesus a hero and all that.
But you, the little child knows, and Jesus knows, that he has reached out and touched him. And in touching him, the little boy knows he’s been touched by God.
And so he jumps up and he grabs the pallet and he runs home.
Why do you think he brought the pallet?
Jesus tells him to bring the pallet.
If you’re a child that age, what is the one thing when you go to Coney Island, where you go to some famous place or your father takes you to some other city or something exciting, you always look for a souvenir, right? Something to remember this time.
And so the boy with great delight takes the pallet home. And I’m sure for the rest of his life he puts it in the corner of his room.
And every time he looks at it he realises the great truth: Jesus has come to heal us; Jesus has come to show us the love of God, the mercy of God, the caring of God.
No demands, no terrible outrage, no jail term, just the loving forgiveness of God who is so vulnerable that He forgives even before we ask Him for the forgiveness that we need.
And that is kind of the heart of what little Mark, who suffered, remember, from the fact that he was rejected on the first trip by St Paul and he went home in shame, but now he’s writing the story that says that, well, he made that mistake, but he’s writing the story of the little boy because he feels just like the little boy stealing. Stealing is no fun.
I hope that you take, from now on anyhow, you take these stories very, very seriously, because they’re at the heart of what Jesus is saying to us.
No matter how bad it is, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what you have done, don’t worry about law, don’t worry about order, God’s love will never, never go away.
And all you have to do is open your heart and, even before the teardrops fall, He has forgiven you and returned you to what? He’s returned you to a new life and a new way of looking at things.
And the most important lesson that I took out of it was: give the forgiveness that God gives to me every day, and share it with those especially in need.
FAQ for Homily for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
|When is 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, in 2030?||24th February 2030|
|What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B?||"Sin and Forgiveness" and "Your Sins Are Forgiven You"|
|What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle? ||1st Sunday of Lent, Year B|
|Who was Father Hanly?||Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary|
|How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?||By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title|
Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
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If you would like to use our transcripts of either of these sermons (updated 2023), please contact us for permission.
Father Hanly's sermon for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "Sin and Forgiveness" was delivered on 22nd February 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "Your Sins Are Forgiven You" was delivered on 19th February 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.
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