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Homily for 5/6/12 - Pascha 4 - the Paralytic

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  • Fr David Moser
    John 5:1-15 Since the beginning of creation there have always been places in the world where the grace of God seems to spill over into the world or erupt into
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2012
      John 5:1-15

      Since the beginning of creation there have always been places in the
      world where the grace of God seems to spill over into the world or erupt
      into the world from the Kingdom of God. These places have a certain
      holiness because of that grace. The greatest of these “natural” holy
      places was, of course the Garden of Eden which served as a dwelling
      place for our first parents Adam and Eve after their creation. There
      they walked with God and communed with Him. After the fall they were
      exiled from this place into the world where such grace was less easily
      found. In all the various pagan religions of antiquity there have always
      been places that have been identified as especially holy or blessed and
      on these places temples are built or altars are erected and they become
      the center of worship for that community. In the history of the people
      of God we find mention of such places – Mt Ararat where the ark landed;
      the place where Abraham sacrificed Isaac; the place where Jacob wrestled
      with God in a dream; Mt Sinai where Moses met God and of course
      Jerusalem where the Prophet and King David established the Tabernacle
      and where Solomon first built the permanent temple. In the account of
      our Lord’s meeting with the woman Photini at the well in Samaria (itself
      one of these sacred places as it was where Jacob watered his flock) she
      contrasted the worship of the Samaritans on Mt Gerazim with the temple
      of the Jews in Jerusalem asking which was better showing us that there
      were many sacred places where God was worshipped in the Promised Land.
      Even after the time of our Lord’s sojoun in this world, we still
      recognize many holy places – places that have been sanctified by the
      prayers and struggles of the saints or springs that emerge miraculously
      from the ground by the prayers of saints bearing healing properties for
      example – places where Christians go on pilgrimage to worship and
      commune with God.

      One such place evident at the time of Christ was the pool of Bethesda in
      Jerusalem. Here the water would be stirred by an angel on occasion and
      the first person to enter the waters after this would receive healing
      from the grace which filled the waters. For this reason many sick and
      disabled people would gather here at the pool waiting for the agitation
      of the waters indicating the presence of the angel so that they might
      have the chance of being healed. It was at this place that we find our
      Lord Jesus Christ today. He has come to this pool at time when it was
      quiet and there encountered there a man who suffered from paralysis.
      This man had no one to care for him and no hope of healing other than
      the grace of God. Here he waited for the stirring of the water, the
      eruption of the grace of God into the world so that He might enter the
      water and be healed. But because of his paralysis, he was unable to get
      to the water when it was stirred and so had never been able to take
      advantage of the miraculous effects of that eruption of grace.

      When Jesus came to this man, his long wait to experience the grace of
      God was at an end. Because he could not get into the pool of grace on
      His own, the very source of grace, the fountain from which it flowed
      came to him. Because the paralytic had no man to bring him to the water
      when the angel appeared, the God/man Jesus Christ came to him offering
      the wholeness that he sought. His hopelessness was changed into hope and
      his weakness was changed into strength. So it is when we truly encounter
      Christ – all that we lack is filled; we find comfort and our sorrow is
      changed into joy; our weakness becomes the means by which His strength
      invigorates us; our sickness and death is changed into wholeness and
      life. All these things this man experienced and all these things we too
      experience when we encounter Jesus Christ.

      The Church creates for us a similar “sacred place”, a place where the
      grace of God is poured out upon the world. Every time that we enter the
      temple we enter into the presence of God and are surrounded by His
      grace. But too often we do not experience the benefits of this grace
      because like the man in the Gospel today we are paralyzed. Our hearts
      are paralyzed by sin and because of this, even though we may enter
      physically into this sacred place, we are not touched by the fountains
      of grace. Our sins prevent us from being able to experience the grace
      that is freely and abundantly poured out upon us and which surrounds us.
      We are here in the midst of this sacred place, but we are surrounded by
      the hard shell of our sins and so little if any of the grace that is
      abundantly poured out upon us here seeps in. In order to access this
      grace we have to let go of our sins – by confessing our sins and
      repenting (that is turning away from them). Once we let go of our sins
      by reaching out to Christ, that hard shell peels away and the grace of
      God rushes in. When this happens, the paralysis of the heart, brought
      about by our own pride and our sins is healed and we are freed to follow
      Christ and to live within the grace that is poured out upon us.

      Having brought the healing grace to this paralytic, Jesus then instructs
      him to take up his bed and walk. This is also what He does with us.
      Having brought His grace to us, having washed from us the hard shell of
      our sin which paralyzes us, He tells us to walk – to change the state in
      which we have lived up to now. This is a vital part of our healing; we
      must leave behind our former ways of wallowing in sin and walk. Not only
      should we simply walk, but we must also be careful in how and where we
      walk. Jesus came later to this man again and said to him, “Behold, thou
      art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” It is
      our sin which has separated us from God and if we would continue to live
      in communion with Him then it is vital to avoid those things which broke
      that communion in the first place. And so He says to us, “sin no more”.
      Having received the healing grace of God we now must make use of the
      grace and reorder our lives, no longer exposing ourselves to sin and
      temptation but avoiding those things in order that “worse thing” will
      not come upon us (that “worse thing” would be the eternal condemnation
      of our soul which is the result of a life lived in sin).

      We have come to the Church, to this sacred place, and here we have
      encountered Jesus Christ and received grace from Him. Now He tells us to
      “sin no more” and it is here in the Church that we learn how to do that.
      Here our Holy Mother Church takes us as little children and teaches us
      gently and lovingly how to walk in the ways of Christ’s commandments,
      how to avoid sin and choose righteousness instead. She nourishes us with
      the grace filled food of the sacraments, and fills our hearts with the
      words of the Gospels, with the prayers of the saints and hymns of
      worship. She guides our steps that we might learn a new way to live and
      a new path to follow: following Christ on the path of salvation.

      Your sins have been forgiven and washed away. You have been freed from
      the tyranny of sin and healed of its effects. Now it remains for you to
      maintain that freedom and wholeness by following Christ, by living in
      the way that you are taught here in the Church through her traditions
      and customs, through the teaching of the saints, through the words of
      the Gospel, the prayers and the hymns of the Church. You have been
      healed, and now it is within your ability to change the way that you
      live and to follow Christ, ever refreshed in the fountain of grace that
      flows from Him. You now stand in the same place as the paralyzed man –
      and only this question remains, will you follow Christ or will you
      continue in your life of sin?

      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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