|Homily 2nd Sunday of Great Lent St Gregory Palamas snd the Sunday of the Paralytic|
Sunday of the Paralytic and Commemoration of St. Gregory Palamas
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . glory to Jesus Christ, Glory forever!
On this day we have been given a great image of the Church in the friends of the Paralytic. We can imagine the four men carrying their friend through the dusty Palestinian streets. They are excited, eager to bring their friend to the Master in order to receive healing. Word had spread that the great healer and teacher was in their town, indeed, Our Lord had made
They find their way blocked by the crowd and so they, with their great faith, do not despair. They improvise. They actually vandalize the roof of the house that Christ was in and lower their friend down into it. The image is, frankly, almost comical. It is certainly impressive. The amount of effort that went into breaking through the roof, creating a hole big enough for a bed, getting their friend and his bed up on the roof and then lowering him down through the hole was no small feat. These are true friends indeed! What does Scripture say? “When Jesus saw their faith....” Our Lord saw their faith, not the paralytic’s faith, though it had to have been there. Our Lord grants the desire of the paralytic based on the unwavering faith of his friends. He grants both healing of body and soul in the forgiveness of sins and the raising of the man from his bed of sickness. In the Epistle of St. James we read in the fifth chapter that we receive healing in the Church in the same way that Christ healed the paralytic, it is through the love, faith and prayer of our brethren:
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
It has been said that we are saved together, but fall alone. We have been enjoined to bear one another’s burdens and to love each other. Indeed, the love that we show each other is the “new commandment” that the Lord gave us. This love is how we are to be known as Christians, not necessarily in how well we can theologize. The greatest theology is love in action. It is the most memorable too. The actions of these men in helping their friend, is this not the perfect image of that kind of love? How many of us would carry a friend through the streets, lug him up onto a roof, break through the roof, just so our friend could be healed? Most likely, we would give up when we could not find a good parking space. How many of us have the faith to know... to know without wavering.... that vandalizing a house would result in the healing of a friend and not arrest or public censure? How many of us have the faith to risk that arrest or censure and do what is needed to help our friend anyway?
We are told in Scriptures that God is Love. If we are made in God’s Image, then, we too should love. In fact it is in loving each other that we come closer to that image, when we come closer to the likeness of God. St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote once that since God is infinite goodness, we can never fully become like Him. We can only keep on growing closer and closer, but we cannot reach something that has no end. It is the same thing with God’s love, as well. God’s love never ends. We should never stop striving to love, then, because that is a way to come closer and closer to God.... and it will never end! We can never reach a boundary with God’s love. The moment we stop trying we have put a limit on what cannot be limited. We fall short of what we are called to be: the likeness of God! This is how we fall alone. When we stop growing in love, we start growing in indifference. We start doing our will, not God’s. We become selfish and we fall.
There is an old story on what Heaven and Hell is like. Two souls are permitted to leave Heaven and Hell. They discuss what it is like in their respective places. Hell, it turns out, is a sumptuous banquet in which all the delightful foods of the world are spread out. The diners, though, have iron bands around their elbows. They can touch the food, but they cannot bring it to their lips... and so for them Hell is a place of starvation and deprivation. The sojourner from Heaven says, “It’s much the same in Heaven. The only difference is that we feed each other.”
Love is not selfish. Love does not turn inward upon itself. Love flows outward and is always concerned with someone else. This is an image of the Persons of the Trinity in the love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also the image of the Church which is the Body of Christ. God loved the world so much He gave us His Son. We are united to Him by the Holy Eucharist and we are called to love each other and our neighbor. We are called to be the likeness of God’s love.
“When Jesus saw their faith....” could also be read as “when Jesus saw their love...”
2009 Fr. Philip Kontos