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Homily for 5/22/05 - Healing of the Paralytic

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  • David Moser
    The dark struggle of Great lent gives way to the bright joy of Pascha. In the Resurrection, all the trials, all the struggles, all the suffering and self
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2005
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      The dark struggle of Great lent gives way to the bright joy of Pascha. In
      the Resurrection, all the trials, all the struggles, all the suffering and
      self denial of Great Lent is swept away by the excitement and joy of
      reaching the pinnacle of God's victory over sin and death and the devil.
      This excitement, this joy, this zeal for the Christian life which floods the
      soul comes because for a moment we are given a glimpse of heaven; we are
      granted, if even for a brief moment, to stand with the saints and the
      heavenly host of angels and archangels and to sing and shout and cry out
      along with them the praise and glory of God. For a moment we experience the
      brightness of the everlasting light of God's presence in which there is no
      sorrow, no sighing but only life and joy everlasting. The memory of the
      experience of this moment continues with us even after Pascha, after Bright
      week; it continues with us as we return to the routines and rigors of our
      daily life.



      In the Gospel today we were reminded of the man who had been a cripple for
      38 years. He had exhausted every avenue of treatment available to him and
      still he suffered. Along with our Lord Jesus Christ we find him at the pool
      at Bethesda where he waits for the miraculous stirring of the water by an
      angel in hopes that he will be able to enter the water in time to be healed.
      For 38 years he held onto this hope and did not let it dim or fade in his
      heart.



      We heard also, in the epistle of one of the Christians in the city of Joppa
      names Dorcas, or Tabitha. This was a woman full of the love of God and this
      divine love flowed through her to those around her by her almsgiving and
      charity. However, she fell ill and died even before the Holy Apostle Peter
      could arrive from a neighboring city. He arrived to see and hear the sorrow
      and grief of those who had been blessed by her great almsgiving.



      Now if these two accounts ended here, we might be justified in despairing -
      in the same way that without the resurrection, the crucifixion and burial of
      Christ is without joy or hope. But these accounts do not end there. Our
      Lord Jesus Christ came to the pool at Bethesda and fulfilled the long
      standing faith of the paralytic and healed him of his disease. The Holy
      Apostle Peter went to the body of the righteous Dorcas and prayed. By the
      prayers and faith of the Holy Apostle of the Christians in Joppa, the
      gracefilled life of Dorcas was not cut short and she was raised from the
      dead and restored to life.



      As we return to the world, we see that the Resurrection has not ended
      suffering, it has not ended sorrow, it has not ended death. For each of us,
      it was no doubt a matter of hours, days at the most when the struggles of
      this worldly life again returned to our lives. In those struggles of
      worldly life, it is easy to lose sight of the joy and hope of the
      Resurrection, but as we are reminded by today's Gospel if we hold onto the
      Resurrection, it changes even the suffering and sorrow that we seem to
      experience as a part of our daily lives. With the Resurrection we discover
      that we cannot avoid these things, just as our Lord did not avoid the
      beatings and mockings and suffering of death on the cross, however these
      things are but temporary, transitory, the means to an end. Without the
      Cross there is no Resurrection. The Resurrection brings hope to the Cross,
      it brings meaning and purpose to our struggles, it brings life even into
      death. Therefore we must hold on to the joy of the Resurrection without
      fail.



      When we come to Christ, when we depend entirely upon His help, His grace,
      His strength, our struggles, our sufferings and our trials do not cease.
      But there is a new dimension, hope is added to the mix. This hope enlivens
      our faith. The paralytic at the pool in Bethesda lived according to his
      faith - he did not give up, he did not despair, but continued every day for
      38 years living according to his faith. Even with the coming of Christ, he
      did not anticipate the healing that he received, rather he simply confessed
      his faith that in God's time he too would receive the healing grace stirred
      up in the water of the pool by the angel. His faith in the love and care
      and providence of God sustained him through 38 years of illness and when his
      faith met the grace of the God/Man Jesus Christ it attracted that grace and
      was filled and fulfilled. The Christian Church at Joppa had been touched by
      the faith of Dorcas who expressed in her life the love of God. They were
      sorrowful because of her death, but still they trusted in God's care and
      provision and so sent for the Apostle Peter. They did not expect Peter to
      raise Dorcas from the dead, but sent for him that He might offer to her on
      behalf of the whole community the blessing of Christian burial. But the
      Apostle, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, did not fulfill their
      expectations but rather put them out of the room and after prayer reached
      out and took her by the hand and through the grace and power of God restored
      her to life. With the Resurrection there is no longer despair for it is
      replaced with hope, there is no longer death, it is replaced with life,
      there is no longer sorrow, it is replaced with joy. In the Resurrection our
      faith is realized and animated and the life of Christ is set before us.



      Here it is also instructive to look at the words of our Lord to the
      paralytic after he had been healed. Our Lord told him to take care not to
      sin lest a worst thing befall him. We know also that in her time, the
      servant of God Dorcas did indeed again fall asleep and surrender her soul to
      paradise - though she had been raised from the dead already by the Apostle
      Peter. Even the most famous resurrected person - St Lazarus raised after
      being dead for 4 days - eventually died again. The Resurrection does not
      wipe away sorrow and suffering and death, but rather transforms them by
      filling them with hope and purpose. The words of our Lord indicated that
      the suffering of the paralytic preserved him from some greater calamity for
      by his disease he was prevented from the sin of which our Lord warned him
      after his healing ("sin no more lest a greater calamity befall you") The
      restoration of Dorcas to life was not expected and yet it was granted to the
      Church in Joppa by God not for her own benefit (for her life was already
      full and fulfilled by the grace of God through her almsgiving and charity)
      but for the benefit of the Church. When the time came that she was no
      longer needed in her earthly life by the Church then she returned to the joy
      of the Lord - not going to eternal death, but to eternal life.



      Our whole lives, our sufferings, our sorrows, our struggles are given
      meaning and purpose by the Resurrection. The Resurrection does not
      eliminate these things from our lives, but rather gives us strength and hope
      and grace to go through them, to use them for our own salvation (just as the
      suffering of the paralytic preserved him from sin and a "greater calamity")
      or for the welfare and building up of the Church ( just as the life of
      Dorcas was restored not for her personal benefit, but for the benefit of the
      Church). We must hold onto the experience of God's presence that is given
      to us at Pascha, maintaining the joy and hope of the Resurrection and bring
      that presence of God, that hope, and that joy to every experience of our
      lives. In this manner everything becomes filled with the glory of God, not
      only our joys but also our sorrows, our struggles, our trials. And the
      presence of God remains with us not to avoid these trials (just as Christ
      did not avoid the cross) but rather to bring us through them into greater
      grace, greater joy, and greater life (just as Christ came through the Cross
      bringing to us the joy and hope and experience of God's kingdom that come to
      us in the Resurrection.)



      Let us then take Pascha with us each day of our lives, preserving the joy of
      the Resurrection throughout the year, preserving the hope of the victory of
      Christ in our lives. In this way all sorrow, all sighing, all suffering
      lead no longer to despair, but rather are the means by which God bestows His
      grace upon us and brings us into His holy presence where there is only life
      everlasting.
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