Today is the feast day of all us paralytics. Today, brothers and sisters, we are to some extent celebrating our name-day, our feast day. Who among us can boast that he is strong and courageous, that he bears all the misfortunes of this age and fulfills all of Christ’s commandments? Deliver us, O Lord, if such a person stands in our midst — nothing could be worse than one who is righteous or strong! The Apostle Paul says: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). But the Apostle did not miss out on one thing: strong faith and undoubting hope in the Savior. “The power of God is made perfect in weakness!”
How can the world, which does not believe in God and preaches the illusory omnipotence of mankind, make sense of this?
Paralytic bothers and sisters! Let us rejoice that we at least understand ourselves to be such! The Lord came into the world to save paralytic sinners, among whom we are numbered. The strong crucified Jesus Christ – and the Lord allowed them this terrible, mindless power to crucify God. When we become proud and sure of ourselves, then we repeat the terrible crime of the godless: the Savior’s crucifixion.
Let us admit who we really are. The Apostle James writes: For what is your life? It is a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (James 4:14). No matter how strongly our pride rebels against it, let us look dispassionately at the universe: the myriads of planets; the thousands of generations, one endlessly following one; the billions of people who have been erased from the memory of their descendants and neighbors.
I had a friend to whom I am very indebted, above all for my faith. When he died twelve years ago I thought that I would never forget him, that I would always remember him – and certainly at the Liturgy. Then I suddenly realized with horror that one Liturgy had gone by, and another, and I had not remembered him, someone who was among the people closest to me. My spiritual paralysis, my ingratitude to a man who had done so much for me, became terrible to me. Do we remember our parents – both living and departed – every day with the proper zeal? Do we remember our own salvation every day? Do we remember what is most important in our lives?
Yet something within us tells us unmistakably that man is something more than vapor… Yes, our life is transient and withering, like the grass under the hot southern sun. Recall in the Psalter: as the flower of the field, so hath he blossomed forth (Psalm 103:15). But the soul – the unique human personhood created by God – has an altogether different story in time and eternity. When the soul is united with its Creator and God, it becomes the most beautiful and precious thing there is on earth. In the memory of God, with God, such a soul receives not just life, but life “abundantly,” as the Apostle Paul writes (2 Corinthians 10:15). He cannot humanly express the mystery of the future age that has been revealed to him in any other way. The same Apostle writes: Eye hath no seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
In the lives of each one of us there will still be moments of weakness and failure, of what we call paralysis. They can last for many years, as with the paralytic at the sheep pool about whom the Gospel speaks. This paralytic lay for many years, waiting for healing. Yet he believed that a messenger of God would come and heal him.
Let us only not perceive ourselves as strong, because Christ is our only strength. Let us never perceive ourselves as invincible and as immune to sin, for we are a fallen people. Let us only strive never to lose faith in Christ, because the Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely powerful and possesses the authority to save us from more than just temporal passions and misfortunes. The Lord, “trampling down death by death,” can grant eternal life to us, who will one day be in the grave, and free us from this eternal and ultimate paralysis.
Let us not think highly of ourselves; let us not be surprised by our infirmities; let us not fall into despair and despondency because of them. Let us strive sincerely and with all our strength towards amendment, struggling against the evil and sin that live within us. Let us firmly believe that our Lord Jesus Christ will help us in this. He loves us, for we are His children. The Lord will not leave behind us who recognizes ourselves as paralytics and who ask for help from our Heavenly Father, but will grant us His invincible power. We are strong only in this: just as all the Apostles, Confessors, Venerable Ones, and Martyrs were likewise strong only in this.
Source: Ora et Labora