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Homily for 4/25/10 - Pascha 4 - Paralytic

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  • Fr David Moser
    John 5:1-15 During the Paschal season the Sundays each have a particular theme relating to the effect of the Resurrection on all of mankind and especially on
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 27, 2010
      John 5:1-15

      During the Paschal season the Sundays each have a particular theme
      relating to the effect of the Resurrection on all of mankind and
      especially on each of us who celebrates this great feast. This is
      similar to the pattern during Great Lent, when each of the Sundays also
      has a particular theme denoted by the saints who are celebrated to
      prepare us for Holy Week and Pascha. In this case, however, it is not
      the particular saint that gives the theme to the Sunday, but rather one
      of the miracles of Christ. Today that miracle is the healing of the
      paralytic who sat at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. This pool was
      special because at a certain time each year the water would be disturbed
      by an angel sent from God. Those who were first to enter the water after
      it had been disturbed were healed of whatever illness they might have.
      This miracle was a foretaste of the healing power of the sacrament of
      Baptism. We come to our Baptism inflicted with the disease of death,
      bound by the many sins which arise in us as the symptoms of our disease.
      We stand before the pool of the baptismal font and the water is blessed
      not by an angel, but by the priest calling upon the Holy Spirit to
      cleanse and purify the water filling it with grace which will be imbued
      to the one who enters it. When the one to be baptized then enters into
      that water and is immersed in it, he is healed of the effects of his
      sins and of the effects of death in him and is filled instead with the
      new life of Christ. This miraculous healing of those who would enter the
      pool of Bethesda was a foreshadowing of the miracle of Holy Baptism by
      which we are all cleansed of our sins.

      The diseases of the body mirror the diseases of the soul. This
      phenomenon is for our benefit for while we are unable always to clearly
      perceive the diseases of the soul and how they affect us, the effects of
      our bodily illnesses are quite clearly seen. In this case we see this
      man afflicted by paralysis – he is unable to move on his own. Likewise
      the soul is paralyzed by sin – it is unable to move on its own, even to
      the healing pool of baptism. Just as many who were at the pool had
      friends who helped them into the water at the coming of the angel, so
      also we must help one another to overcome the paralyzing effects of sin.
      Thus it is necessary for us to help our neighbor and to pray for him. It
      is even more necessary to look to ourselves and seeing our own
      difficulties and trials, to reach out to our neighbor for help. In the
      same spirit, seeing the offered hand of our neighbor for help, we should
      accept it with joy. Often, however, when we receive an offer of help
      from someone, we react with anger and resentment rather than with joy
      and gratitude. In our pride, we may see our own deficits but rather than
      accept help to overcome them, we seek to hide them. Accepting the help
      of our friends is an act of humility, for we must set aside the facade
      of perfection that we try to project to preserve our pride. When a
      person is physically ill, his weakness is visible to all and forces him
      to be humble (at least to a certain degree).

      More important, and indeed more vital to our spiritual wellbeing is the
      help offered to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. It was not the help of men
      that healed those who entered the pool of Bethesda, but rather the power
      of God. But sometimes even that power seems inaccessible to us – as with
      this man at the pool of Bethesda. He could see the healing power of the
      pool in others, but he was unable himself to gain access to that power.
      Seeing that he was unable to come to the healing grace on his own, God
      came to him. Jesus reached out and touched the paralyzed man and raised
      him up. So it is with all mankind; seeing that we were unable to
      approach Him on our own, God in His great love and compassion for us has
      come to us. God became man, coming to us, so that we might in turn come
      to Him and live in union and communion with Him.

      Even after we are healed and given new life by the grace of God in our
      Baptism, we find that we are still plagued by the attacks of sin.
      Although we are no longer powerless against these attacks and unable to
      resist them for we have been given the power of God, too often we give
      up and simply surrender to these temptations willingly binding ourselves
      again with the chains of these sins. These sins again paralyze us and
      cut short our efforts to follow Christ and to live continually in the
      power and glory of the Resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ knows our
      weakness and does not leave us without help for as often as we turn
      again to him in confession and repentance, He is there to forgive us and
      again to cut away the chains of sin empowering us walk with Him. It is
      the power and help of God that heals us.

      However, just as we often react to our brethren who try to help us in
      our weaknesses with anger and denial preserving our pride, so also
      sometimes we reject the help of God by denying our own powerlessness and
      helplessness in the face of sin pretending that we can “take care of it”
      on our own, by our own strength. We deny that we are paralyzed and shy
      away from the humility required to confess and repent of our sins and so
      to be healed. God reaches out to us, but we do not always reach out to
      Him. For this reason, humility is considered to be the greatest of the
      virtues and indispensable for the life in Christ. To nurture humility in
      ourselves, we must first be willing to realize our own sins – giving no
      excuse or justification for them. Having seen our own sins, then we must
      humble ourselves to confess to Christ before the priest who is our
      witness that we have indeed sinned, that we are powerless and that we
      need His help. Having confessed that we have sinned, then we also repent
      of our sins. To repent means that we turn away from those sins, striving
      from that moment to resist the temptation to repeat the sin and even to
      reorder our lives so as to avoid the occasion for sin. Although it is
      important to feel regret and sorrow for our sins, repentance also
      involves an active rejection of the place of that sin in our lives and a
      resistance to its recurrence.

      In the Gospel we heard how Jesus instructed the paralytic to pick up his
      bed and to walk, returning to his home. Had the paralytic thanked Jesus,
      and then sat down again on his mat loving the idleness to which he had
      been so recently enslaved he would have voluntarily subjected himself
      again to paralysis this time not because of any physical weakness or
      disability, but simply because of an act of the will. When God heals us
      of our sin, if we do not then follow Him but return to our sinful ways,
      we will have voluntarily again subjected ourselves to he paralysis of
      sin from which we had so recently been freed. For this reason, our Lord
      calls us not only to deny ourselves and take up our cross, but also to
      follow Him. If we were to remain in the place of our sinfulness we would
      again fall back into it easily, whereas if we follow Christ, if we move
      away from sin, embracing instead in our lives righteousness, then we
      alienate ourselves from sin making it less likely that the sin will be
      able to ensnare us again.

      Sin paralyzes the soul, making it impossible for us even to approach
      God. But God, in His infinite love for us and compassion, seeing our
      weakness and inability to come to Him, has come to us. Out of love for
      us, He became man and for us voluntarily suffered death and in so doing
      defeated sin and death, freeing us from their paralyzing effects. By the
      sacrament of Holy Baptism, we are healed of the paralyzing disease of
      sin and are given the strength to follow Christ into His kingdom. Even
      if we fall prey again to sin after this, our Lord continues to extend to
      us His forgiveness and healing that we might leave behind the sin that
      binds us. All that is left for us to do is to respond to the love of
      God, the accept the salvation and help that He offers to us and to
      follow Him. Having been freed from sin by the Resurrection of Christ,
      having received new life in the waters of Baptism, let us now follow Him
      as He leads us out of the path of sin and sets us on the path of salvation.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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