Our gospel reading today is given to us on the day that we celebrate St. Gregory Palamas, the second Sunday of Great and Holy Lent.
The passage is all about healing. As Christians we know that physical healing is found throughout the Scriptures but it is also important that we remember healing in Scripture is holistic. The physical body is one aspect of healing but we also are concerned with the healing of our minds and soul, since man is more than a physical body. Great lent is given to us by the Church in order to be a sort of spiritual revival and an opportunity for deep and profound healing of the human person primarily through the disciplines of fasting and increased prayer both inside and outside the church.
In today’s passage regarding healing we see some interesting symbolism. For instance, we might understand the four men who carried their friend to the Lord Jesus Christ as the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In this way we are symbolically shown that it is the four gospel writers who are the true friends of man. They carry men to Christ. They begin the process of bringing men to their salvation. In practical terms we can say that the first step to helping others grow closer to Christ and His Church and receive healing is to invite them to read the gospels. We also have to invite ourselves to read the gospels. If we aren’t excited to read about Jesus Christ, to absorb His words of life, what is our life really about? Reading the gospels is the start of healing for many many people. It is the beginning of the path to recovering our humanity.
And where is Christ located when the 4 evangelists bring a man for healing? He is located in His house, which is a symbol of the Church. This is clearly symbolized since God’s house is the Church. This is further seen by the fact that there is a crowd at His house, much as there is a crowd when we gather for worship in the Church. And when the people come to the Church they come for many reasons, not all of them are good. Some come to simply “see what’s up”. Some come to socialize. Others come to have meaningful interaction with Christ, to hear His word and be in His presence and through these acts, to become renewed and transformed.
We see that the man who is brought by the four friends is paralyzed and we are pushed past our own comfort level to understand that his particular paralysis is symbolic of the paralysis of all mankind. It is not merely physical paralysis, it is a deep and profound spiritual paralysis. Sin operates on such a level. It paralyzes us. It makes every proper movement and activity of life, more difficult. Sin makes it harder to pray, to work, to live, to love and have joy with others and to have inner peace. Sin makes us feel that we are stuck in the mud or concrete and unable to make forward progress in life. And at times sin goes further and makes us feel like we are moving backward or even drowning. The evangelist St. Mark tells us that the paralysis of mankind is healed by God and this happens when He forgives our sins. Only God can do this! There are no other options or alternatives.
As Christians we are to be firmly planted in the truth and that truth is a person. It is the person Jesus Christ who forgives us, who wipes away our sins and heals us and who restores His divine image and likeness within us! How does He do this? He did it by taking our form and becoming man, by suffering, dying and rising for us. We enter into this through our baptism and our receiving of the Holy Spirit and we go deeper in our own healing through participation in His body the Church and all of her life giving worship and sacraments especially holy communion. As a matter of fact, one of the modern elders Zacharias of Essex, the disciple of St. Sophrony had this to say “The liturgy is the encounter par excellence between God and man.”
He also writes, “Throughout the history of the Church, the Liturgy has been the ‘place’ where Christians have learned to dwell in the presence of God and thereby to receive the life of God, Who is the Bread of Life which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world……[Man] is sanctified and united to God in the Holy Eucharist through his partaking of the perfection of divine grace. Christ Himself is present in divine worship, according to His promise, especially in the Divine Liturgy. He dwells among His anointed and makes them His Church, His Body, of which He is the Head Who imparts life and the gifts of His Spirit to His members.”
My brothers and sisters, no matter what you have done in your life and no matter how far you may have fallen, Christ can forgive your sins and heal you. In your own life you can hear the words of the Lord Jesus “Son (or daughter), your sins are forgiven.” What’s more, He will give you new life as you draw near to His house which is the Church of the living God. Although we come to the doors of God’s house paralyzed, almost as if dead, Christ renews us and infuses us with His grace and life. All of the medicines and therapies are available within His holy house and they are offered freely to those who draw near in the fear of God and with faith and love. Let us embrace this time of Lent to find new ways to show our love for Christ and push ourselves and to carry those around us to Christ’s Church so that we might partake of this amazing grace. AMEN.