|43 - The Paralytic, July 24, 2011|
In this morning’s Gospel, we see that the forgiveness of sins is also the healing of soul and body. Let’s reflect on that in more depth this morning.
Created by God, this world has its own natural life, its own energy and will. We call this “soul”. The soul has also its own natural principle that determines how the soul and the body of the world exist; but this principle cannot be seen by worldly eyes. For, the principle of the soul is not physical; it is not found in the lab or in the study of physics. It can be seen only by the eyes of faith, for the principle of the world that determines how it exists, how it lives, is obedience to God the Father.
Let me explain this from the bible so that you will understand what I’m proclaiming to you.
The world comes into being at the command of God. In other words, its very coming into existence is an act of obedience to the command of God. The world is created through the obedience of God the Son and of God the Holy Spirit to the will of God the Father, expressed in the command of the First Day: Let there be light, and there was light. Man is fashioned from the dust of the ground at the command of God: Let us make man in our image. God wills, He speaks, and man comes to be. And, when the Holy Spirit is breathed into the nostrils of Adam, Adam becomes a living soul. His soul, the life-force of the world becomes living. The life man’s soul is commanded to live is the uncreated life of God, which is eternal. Thus, when the world lives in obedience to God, it is raised out of itself and it is united to the uncreated life of God and becomes eternal. United to God in the Holy Spirit, the soul is alive because it lives in the life of God. In Adam at his creation, the life of the world was alive because it was living in the life of God.
Can you see now why the principle of the world is not physical, and why it cannot be found in the lab or in the study of physics? It’s because the principle of the soul that makes its life to live is obedience to God. For, it was through the obedience of the Son and the Holy Spirit to the Father that the world came to be and man became a living soul.
Now we begin to understand better why God gives to Adam a command as soon as He creates Him. Through obedience to God’s command, Adam’s soul would live according to the principle of the world, which is obedience to God. More than that, obedience to God would raise him up to become a partaker of the divine nature; for, the first command to Adam was to eat from the Tree of Life and not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The liturgical texts of the Church tell us that the Tree of Life is the Cross, and the Fruit of the Tree of Life is Christ. Obedience to God, then, leads to the joy of Holy Eucharist when we become in body and in soul partakers of the divine nature. This reveals to us that the Holy Eucharist of the Church, which is the body of Christ, is the principle of the world; for, partaking of God in Holy Eucharist is what obedience to God leads to.
Holy Scripture proclaims to us that the life of God, the Holy Spirit, is the life that makes man’s life truly living. Disobedience separates us from God. We fall back into darkness. The life of the soul is no longer living but dying. Instead of ascending from glory to glory in God, we return to the dust of the ground from which we were taken. We become a corpse dissolved back into the dust. Death, then, is the principle of disobedience, revealing that disobedience is alien to our nature for we were not made for death but for life in God. Obedience to God is what is natural to us, for obedience to God is the principle of life, not only the life of the world but of the uncreated life of God.
To say that obedience to God is the principle of the world is to proclaim the love of God as the principle of the world; for obedience is but the expression of love. Look to yourself and see if we do not obey the directives and commands of that which we love. Do we not live by whatever it is that we love? Do we not obey what we love? Is that not what we follow after, what we live for? You can see for yourself, then, that the principle of our life is obedience to whatever we love. So then, what is the love of your life that you obey in your words, your actions, your thoughts, and especially in those moments when you are by yourself and no one is looking?.
The ancients worshipped idols. Modern man thinks he does not worship idols anymore. But, the gods and goddesses worshipped in antiquity were but the faces of the passions. When we give in to lust, for example, we are worshipping, obeying Aphrodite. When we give in to anger, we are worshipping, obeying Ares. When we obey the passions and do their bidding we are idolaters. When we indulge our passions, It is not God we are living for but the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It is not God but the lust and pride of life that we are turning to in order to find meaning in our life. This is sin, because it is “falling away” from God, “missing the mark” which is obedience to God in order to live in the life of God.
Our disobedience is why we are sick in soul and in body. Even we who are healthy by the standards of the fallen world are sick; we are sick unto death because we love and obey the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These things are passing away, they are not eternal. If they are our god, then we are prisoners of the death and corruption that is their end. St Paul says that we are dead in our trespasses because we walk, we obey the spirit that is the prince of this world who is active in the sons of disobedience, who, in following after the prince of this world, live in the desires of their flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of their fallen, blinded understanding (Eph 2:1-2). Beyond the viruses and bacteria that modern man identifies as the cause of our physical infirmities, beyond the alleged wrongs done to us by our parents that modern day psychology identifies as the cause of our emotional maladies, beyond all the cancer-causing foods we eat is the ultimate cause of our sickness and our enslavement to death and corruption: it is the sin of our disobedience.
Thus, the paralytic of this morning’s Gospel is each one of us. To be paralyzed is like being dead. A paralytic can’t move; he is like one who is dead, except that he is not dead. He is still alive. The paralytic, then, is like all of us who are dead in our trespasses. In our souls, we are living but not in the life of God; we are living the life of the soul that comes from the dust of the ground and returns to the dust of the ground. And so we are dead to God in our spirit. We are like spiritual zombies.
In this morning’s Gospel, the paralytic was carried to the Savior by four men. God has sent into the world His holy prophets, His holy apostles and evangelists, and His Holy Mother to carry us to His Son and our God, Jesus Christ Our Savior. He stands before us the Son of Man who was raised from the dead because He was perfectly obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the cross, by which He destroyed our death by His death. And, in His obedience to the Father, the forgiveness of God has come into the world to heal us from the sickness of our disobedience. We partake of the forgiveness of Christ when we repent of our disobedience and become obedient to Christ. That obedience to Christ brings us to the Chalice of Holy Eucharist and we become partakers of the divine nature.
In the sacraments of the Church, we receive the fruits of Christ’s perfect obedience – the healing of our disobedience. What remains is for us now to obey His command to us: Rise, take up your bed and go home. That means to take up our cross in order to crucify our love for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life and give it God so that we begin to live even here and now, even while we are yet sinners, still subject to sickness and death, in the life of God. The home that we are going back to when we take up our bed in obedience to Christ is Eden, the original home of mankind. We are like the Israelites leaving Egypt to make our way through the wilderness of this life to the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven, Eden. And, as soon as we rise up and begin to go back home in the practice of obedience to Christ, our healing in both soul and body begins. The sins that are the cause of our sickness in body and soul are washed away, absolved, as we confess them in the sacrament of confession; our death begins to die as we walk in our daily life according to the commandments of Christ. We begin to live in the life of God and to become healthy, whole, able to walk in the light of God as children of light. Then, we are becoming truly human as we become partakers by the grace of God in the divine nature, living the very life of God. Amen.