Holding on to grace—Sunday of the Paralytic

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

Christ is risen!

Lent, the Great Fast, is a time for preparation, of ascetical practices, of setting our souls and bodies in order so that we may meet the Lord.  We fast, we pray, and at its end we come to its completion and fulfilment in Great and Holy Week and the blessed Pascha.  We can feel such grace, such blessings, when we receive the light and can sing with joy, “Christ is risen!”  But so easily it seems to pass us by—we quickly return to the mundane and ordinary, grace has passed by until the next Pascha.  We may feel great faith, great faithfulness, at the Paschal Banquet, the Divine Liturgy, but it is fleeting and disappears: it remains only as a faded memory.

The Paralytic had been enduring his own Lent—but instead of forty days his had lasted thirty-eight years, instead of a voluntary fast his was an enforced asceticism.  And we can meet many in our society who are going through such a Fast, both those who are poor and in need and those who are rich by worldly standards lie paralysed by the pool, waiting for a spiritual experience, an “angel of the Lord” to appear.

Not a mere angel but the “Angel of Great Counsel” (Isaiah 9:6 ʟxx) heard his cry, his petitions of thirty-eight years, and visited him.  He came to the Paralytic and offered healing, offered life.  And he offers the same to you and to me—our souls can be healed here in this life whereas physical healing may wait until the next—each of us is offered healing.  “Do you want to be healed?” the Lord asks him and he asks us: “Do you want to leave behind your own personal Great Fast?  Do you want to come into contact with me, the one who lives and offers life?”  Because the Lord treats the Paralytic with love and with dignity, he is free to accept him or reject him as we are too.

We, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, have heard this invitation to meet Christ and we have met him resurrected at Pascha: we have experienced this grace, this blessing.  But many around us have not: they have not even a man to put them into the pool, perhaps they do not even know the pool exists?  And as the priest, and as the levite, we walk by—hoping a Samaritan may come along and do what is required of us. (see Luke 10:25–37)

But how do we hold on to the grace we have received?  How do we make it our own and not a fleeting experience?  What is needed is a new kind of asceticism, one which is for the soul more than for the body, for the Lord answers the man who had been paralysed and he answers us, “See, you are well!  Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.”  We may preserve the grace by a continuous purification, by rejecting the sin that is within me and naming it for what it is.  The Church, in her great love for each one of us, offers us Confession where we may reject before God and before a witness evil which lurks within us.  And the Lord will re-establish his grace.

My dear brothers and sisters, reject sin.  And by being the Christians we are called to be we can be the ones who put our friends, our family members, our colleagues, our acquaintances—anyone who is our neighbour—into the pool and they can encounter the Angel, the Messenger: they can encounter Christ.

Christ is risen!

To our risen and glorified Saviour, Jesus Christ, be all glory, honour and might, together with his Unoriginate Father and the All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, Amen.

In those days, as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
— Acts 9:32–42

At that time, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and troubled the water; whoever stepped in first after the troubling of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk.’ “They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
— John 5:1–15