The word “magic” is oft misused. We apply it to people who are skilled in an art form that uses human perception ‘prompts’ and causes a viewer to look away from where things are actually happening. The word’s definition relates to ‘an art of influencing or predicting events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces.’ When a magician pulls a rabbit from his hat, we know the rabbit was NOT there at one point in time. And yet we see the rabbit in the guy’s hand, extricating the rabbit from the hat!
On this Sixth Sunday after Pentecost in the Gospel from St. Matthew (Mat 9:1-8), our Lord has just departed from the Gadarenes, who asked Him to leave them because—well, simply put, He cost them money. They choose their assets as more important than our Lord's healing a man possessed by many demons. They valued pigs more than the man.
So Jesus comes home, and those who know Him and have faith in Him bring to Him a paralyzed man. With no other prompting beyond the faith of those who bring the man to Him, our Lord dispenses at least three (3) healings.
He begins by saying to the man, “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven you!” The spiritual healing has been accomplished by the Word of God through the words spoken by our Lord. Any sins the man had beforehand—they’re gone! Abolished forever. Just as OUR sins are gone when we confess them in faith through the sacrament of confession.
The second healing comes when our Lord knows that the scribes present are criticizing His use of the expression “forgiven”. He lovingly encounters them. “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Why are you filled with anger when you see a man healed? Why are you enraged when you are witnesses to the power of God exhibited for the benefit of all, including you, right before your very eyes? This miracle I am working on this man is also meant to heal you as well, if only you will align your hearts to see God’s mercy and love for all of mankind, even you who are doubters.
And so Jesus completes the man’s miracle. “Arise! Take up your bed. Go home!!”
And in the third miracle, the man simply gets up. He cannot help but follow the instructions, filled with love as they are, of the Master. He Who created all things has regenerated the impotent limbs of one whose body has been wracked by the evil of this world. Yes, it relates to his sin, but also to the sin and the fallenness of the world around us. His legs were useless because of disease. God did not “create” disease in Genesis. There is no phrase therein that says, “And God saw the disease, and it was good,” is there?!! All that mankind shares as affliction is the result of our living in a world separated from God. All sickness, sorrow and suffering are counter to His Divine will for us. He allows them in our lives to point us towards that repentance that grants today's paralytic the first healing. We, like him, seek to hear from our Lord's lips and directed towards us, "Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven!"
Those who are witnesses to today’s miracle see it with eyes that perhaps are not focused on the real event. They see the man walk. They didn’t see his soul cleansed first. The “rabbit” of his walking away belies the “empty hat” of his coming to our Lord in sin, and that being first forgiven by the Lover of mankind!
And so the crowd leaves, uttering their astonishment that God has given this kind of power “to men”, failing totally themselves to see that God stands before them as a Man, showing them the potential for which He created mankind.
“He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12) Yes, He is giving such power to men. But it is HIS power, not man’s. When it is exhibited, it is HIS WILL that is done, not man’s, if only we will seek His will first. It's not 'magic' - it is answer to fervent prayer, forgiving of sins, and the love of God Who heals and forgives in His infinite love for us.