First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

In July of the year 64, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire.  Some people blamed the tragedy on the mad Roman Emperor Nero, who shifted the blame on to the Christians in Rome who were rounded up and executed in the first great persecution of the Church.  Wherever the Gospel was preached the Church met with opposition and yet no power on earth can stop the work of the Holy Spirit.  The witness of the Apostles and the blood of the martyrs are the foundation upon which the Church is built.  We are the heirs of the Apostles and martyrs; let us pray for the grace to witness as they did.

We’ve just heard the account of Our Lord curing a paralyzed man.  But the cure doesn’t come in response to a request.  Rather than being asked to cure this man, Our Lord senses the faith of those carrying him.  But what kind of faith is this?  Our Lord has just stepped off the boat.   Have these people already come to regard him as the Messiah?  Or perhaps they have heard of his reputation and merely have faith in his ability to cure?

Our Lord makes it clear what sort of faith he has found here; he doesn’t tell the man to rise up and walk, although later verses show that he considered this alternative.  Instead, Our Lord tells the man that his sins are forgiven; and not only that, but to have the courage to believe that this is so.

In our own experience, we may have felt our own burdens of guilt relieved when we’ve made a good confession, or by a simple acknowledgement of forgiveness from someone we have hurt or offended.  And perhaps there are deeper burdens as well that are much harder to release: things that we have done or failed to do that we feel are almost unforgivable.   And so let us pray today to have the faith of the man who was healed, to believe that our sins are truly forgiven, and to allow that faith to cure us of the guilt that can so easily paralyze us.

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