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Homily for 5/11/14 - P3 - the paralysis of sin

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  • David
    John 5:1-15 It is now three weeks since we celebrated the Glorious Resurrection of our Lord, His victory over sin, death and the devil by which He freed us
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2014
      John 5:1-15

      It is now three weeks since we celebrated the Glorious Resurrection of
      our Lord, His victory over sin, death and the devil by which He freed us
      from our captivity. On the past two Sundays, in the Gospel readings we
      have revisited the joy of the resurrection, tasting again the sweetness
      of our Lord’s love for us and of the victory that He bestows upon us.
      Today, however, we have heard of something quite different – rather than
      the joy of the resurrection, we are faced with the suffering of a man
      who had been paralyzed for 38 years. For 38 years he lay beside the
      sheep pool at the gates of Jerusalem waiting for his chance to be healed
      by the miraculous stirring of the water by an angel. For 38 years he has
      failed again and again to be healed due to the very illness from which
      he sought deliverance. Suddenly he is approached not by an angel, but by
      the Creator of the angels, their Lord and Master, the God/man Jesus
      Christ. He does not stir the waters as did the angel nor does He even
      offer to lift the paralytic into the water. What He did do was much
      greater than that, for by His word alone, He healed this man of his
      paralysis, telling him to get up and walk. Here we see the power of our
      Lord, the same power by which He Himself rose from the dead. With great
      compassion and mercy, He reached out and touched the one who was
      suffering and delivered him from his ailment.
      In the Gospel, we are shown over and over again that illness, and
      especially paralysis, is an image of the effect of sin upon us. Sin
      causes various afflictions and sufferings of the soul which are
      reflected by the various afflictions and sufferings of the body.
      Paralysis is particularly clear for it shows us that while paralysis
      prevents a body from moving, even to help itself, so also sin prevents
      the soul from moving, that is, taking any action, even to help itself
      and free itself from its captivity.

      Keeping this comparison in mind, let us now look at this healing in its
      light. This man had been paralyzed not for a short time, but from most
      of his life – for 38 years. For that whole time, he had been trying to
      find a cure – even the miraculous cure of the stirring of the water. But
      he had not been able to be freed of his suffering despite his efforts.
      Very often those who are being attentive to their own spiritual life
      begin to recognize a certain pattern to their sins. Through prayer and
      fasting and the sacraments they struggle against that temptation, but in
      the end they fall again and again into the same trap. They cannot seem
      to find the key to deliverance from their spiritual suffering. This does
      not mean that God has abandoned them or that He does not forgive their
      sin – what this often does indicate is that somewhere there is a sin
      that we hold on to, that we do not give over to God and this sin holds
      us back, like an anchor and we are unwilling to drop it. That sin, to
      which we hold so tightly, is usually hidden within the soul and it takes
      time and spiritual labor to uncover it and reveal it. We have excused
      ourselves, rationalized the sin, even reinterpreted it into an element
      of false righteousness. This could be some kind of offense or hurt that
      we hold against someone for some long past wrong, real or imagined. This
      sin could also be some secret pleasure that we are unwilling to give up.
      We could be withholding our sin out of shame – hiding it to make us
      “look good” in the eyes of others or even in the eyes of God and perhaps
      we have even hidden it from ourselves so that we don’t have to face it.
      Regardless of the circumstance, there is nested deep within the soul a
      kernel of sin that produces a never ending flow of spiritual suffering
      that compromises our spiritual efforts and prevents us from being healed.

      What does it take then to be delivered from our sin? Remember at the end
      of Lent, we called to mind the struggle of St Mary of Egypt. She knew
      her sin and repented and yet it still took years of ascetic living in
      the desert, isolated from the temptations and opportunities for new
      sins, crying out in prayer to God for help, in order for her to be
      finally freed not only from the sin (for that was accomplished at the
      instant of her repentance when the barrier was removed allowing her to
      venerate the life-giving wood of the Cross) but also from the
      remembrance of her sin and the power that it had to drag her back into
      slavery. We each face the same kind of struggle as that of St Mary of
      Egypt. We need to work to find the root of our sin in us and having
      found it, begin by sincere and complete repentance. Having repented of
      our sin, it is forgiven, but still we have to work to repair that damage
      that it has done in the soul, damage which can lead us easily back into
      the clutches of that sin. The paralytic lay by the pool for 38 years
      hoping for that healing and although there was no visible change, within
      his soul something was happening to heal the ravages of sin. After so
      long a time – at just the right moment – our Lord came to this paralytic
      and filled him with the power of God to finally shake off his paralysis.

      The healing of the paralytic was made manifest in one simple act of
      obedience. Jesus said to Him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk”. The man
      could have made excuses; he could have just ignored one who said such a
      ridiculous thing; he could have remained in his hopelessness – and in so
      doing he would have become again the slave of his paralysis. However
      this man simply obeyed the seemingly foolish and ridiculous instruction
      given him to arise and pick up his bed and walk. Obedience is a vital
      piece of our spiritual healing as well. By the Resurrection of our Lord,
      we have been freed from the captivity of sin and we have been healed of
      the damage it has brought upon the soul. However, there remains yet one
      thing – to obey. Our Lord said elsewhere that those who wished to come
      after Him must deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Him. It is
      this last condition that we see here – to follow Christ, to obey Him in
      all things, or order our lives around His commandments. True healing and
      deliverance from sin entails a change of life – a change from following
      the dictates of sin and seeking to satisfy its demands and instead
      following the commandments of Jesus Christ and walking on the path of
      salvation. Where do we find these commandments, what is this path? This
      is the life that is set out for us by our Holy Mother Church, the life
      of righteousness and conforming our lives to the Life of Christ made
      manifest in His Body.

      Finally we see that our Lord came to the paralytic one final time and
      said to him these important words, “go and sin no more”. These words
      reveal to us the link between bodily suffering and sin, they show us
      that all of our suffering in this life is due in some fashion to our
      sinfulness. The only way to remain free from such suffering, whether
      physical or spiritual is to “go and sin no more”. This final commandment
      reminds us first of the importance of obedience to the commandments of
      Christ, but it also adds a very important element – that of persistence.
      It is not sufficient just to repent and then go on our own way, but if
      we would truly be delivered from the tyranny of sin, it requires a
      lifelong commitment to struggle, resisting the temptations to return to
      our sin and to following the path of salvation set before us by our Lord
      in the life of the Church. Therefore, do not abandon God and He will not
      abandon you.

      Whatever your sin might be, whatever you might have done in the past,
      whatever wickedness, weakness or just plain foolishness that you might
      have engaged in, now Jesus Christ stands before you and offers to you
      the chance to be healed. Repent of your sin, conform your life to His
      and from this moment on struggle to follow the path that He sets before
      you, never giving up no matter what difficulty you might face. And with
      this, He will free you from your sin, He will set you on the path of
      salvation, giving you all the instruction that you need, He will fill
      you with the joy of His resurrection and the power of His victory and He
      will never leave you nor forsake you but will walk with you all the way
      into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      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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