Thursday in the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Jesus said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?” The Desert Fathers teach that the work of a monk is renunciation of evil thoughts. We want to fulfill the prayer of the Psalmist, “May my thoughts be pleasing to Him, for I find my joy in the Lord” (103:34). But aren’t we all called to guard our thoughts and live prayerfully?
There are eight clusters of evil thoughts that attack us over and over again in the silence of our hearts: thoughts about food, sex, and things, that is gluttony, lust and covetousness, along with anger, dejection, acedia, vainglory and pride. Evil thoughts move us to evil deeds.
It happened in the life of Alessandro Serenelli, a 19-year-old boy who lived next door to the young, beautiful 11-year-old girl, Maria Goretti, who was martyred 121 years ago today, possibly the youngest canonized saint in the Church. Alessandro’s lust moved him to attempt rape, but she resisted and prevented him. In a fit of rage, he stabbed Maria fourteen times and then fled to his room pretending to be asleep. Before she died, Maria’s last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli and I want him to be with me in heaven forever.” While serving his 30-year prison sentence, Maria appeared to him six years later and repeated her act of forgiveness. Filled with compunction for his crime, grace entered his heart and he began to live a beautiful life of holiness, eventually becoming a Franciscan lay brother.
What sins could the paralytic in today’s gospel have committed that Jesus said to him, “Your sins are forgiven”? Were they sins of thought, yes, certainly; sins of word, probably; sins of deed, not so easily. The healing of his soul was greater than the healing of his paralyzed body. Did he, like Alessandro Serenelli, experience an interior life-changing conversion after his encounter with Jesus? Did he guard his thoughts and live prayerfully from then on? I think so.
How can we guard our thoughts and live prayerfully? Not by attacking evil thoughts to empty our minds and hearts of them, but by filling our minds and hearts with the words and thoughts of Sacred Scripture by memorization and frequent repetition of the Word of God in our hearts. We overcome evil thoughts by crowding them out.