34 - Fourth Sunday of Pascha, Paralytic, May 11, 2014

Acts 9:32-43

John 5:1-15

On Pascha night, the Angel cries to the Lady Full of Grace: “He is risen! He is not here! Lo, He goes before you into Galilee. There, you will see Him.” We have taken the Angel’s words as our rubric of interpretation, together with what the LORD says to St Thomas in the Upper Room: “Blessed are those who do not see and believe,” for helping us to “see” how we may come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and have life in His Name.” We must go to Galilee. There, we will see Him, as the LORD Himself said, according to the Angel.

Our contemplation of the last two Sundays has led us to “see” that the Angel’s words mean: “Go back to your baptism when you swore you would unite yourself to Christ. Go back to the Cross. Deny yourself and follow Christ. In the mystery of taking up your Cross, you will see Him in an unseeing way – i.e., in a way that is not of the world – and you will come to believe that he is the Son of God because the Holy Resurrection of Christ will become your very life. When we take up our Cross in repentance and humility, it is no longer we who live but Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, who begins to live in us

However, contemplating this morning’s Gospel under this rubric leads us even deeper yet into the word of the Angel: Go to Galilee; there you will see Him.

It says that Jesus commanded the paralytic: “Rise up, take up your bed and walk!” Can you hear: “Rise, take up your cross and follow Christ into Galilee”?

It says that Jesus saw this man lying there by the sheep’s pool. He knew that He had been lying there a long time, and that he had no man to help him into the pool. One sees here an image of the race of men fallen in Adam because of sin. But, can we not also see ourselves, paralyzed, unable to move because our will seems to be enslaved to the passions, binding us to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? Even if part of us wants to, there seems to be another part, very strong, that doesn’t want to deny itself in us, so that, like the paralytic, in our will we just lie there, unable to move, unable to make ourselves spiritually healthy.

So, the LORD, of His own good will and because of His love for mankind, becomes flesh born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and He comes to the paralytic, just as He comes to us in His Holy Church, His body. He asks the paralytic, and He asks us: “Do you want to be made well?”  The word, well, means, “whole”, “sound”, even “free” from whatever prevents you from being “sound”. It is often equivalent to being “fit” and “wise”. It can also be applied to a word or a teaching that does not deviate from the truth.

Now, on Pascha Night, we read from St John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word. He was with the Father, and He was God. All things came to be through Him.” The Gospel of Our LORD Jesus Christ therefore has a “cosmic” context; and, so we must read this morning’s Gospel. That is to say, to understand the full meaning of what the LORD says to the paralytic; “Do you want to be made healthy” we must go back to the beginning, to Adam’s origin in Christ. In this light, we hear: Do you want to be restored to your original nature and destiny? Do you want to be made “free” from all that prevents you from being your true self, created in the Image and likeness of God? Do you want to live and move and have your being not in the corruption of carnal desire but in Christ? Do you want to become a “partaker” not of the corruption of the world, but of the divine nature”? (II Pt 1:4) Going back to our “Paschal Theme”: Do you want to go back to Galilee? Do you want to be who you really are, a child of God created in His own Image and Likeness?

Let’s consider the Angel’s words to the myrrhbearing women again in the light of this morning’s Gospel: “He goes before you into Galilee.” He, the Image of God, i.e. Christ, goes before you in the image of God. That is to say, God the Word becomes flesh from the materia of the New Eve, the Blessed Virgin and dwells among you as the New Adam. the Image of God, Christ, in whom we were made, Himself becomes everything that we are, except without sin, in order to put the sin that paralyzes us to death, and to renew in us the image of God that we are in our true self, that we may “walk (again) in newness of life.”

The Angel says: “There you will see Him.” Now, we hear: “There, in you, in your true self, you will see Him; for, you were created in Him. He is the mystery of God hidden from before the ages, revealed in the flesh in these last days so that we could see Him who cannot be seen. And that mystery of God that was hidden and is now revealed is precisely: Christ in you! (Col 1:27)

Do you want to be healthy? He asks the paralytic. Do you want to “behold the Resurrection of Christ?” Do you want to see Him in whom you were made to exist, Him in whose image and likeness you exist in your inmost self? Then, rise! Take up your bed and walk…to Galilee, to the mystery of Christ in you! Deny yourself. Take up your Cross, given to you in the ascetic and sacramental life of the Church and follow Christ. Center your life on the Church, which is the body of Christ. Pray, fast, practice the commandments of Christ, come to Church!

I can see in this exchange between the LORD and the paralytic a “sign” that shows the fulfillment of the instructions God gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden, after they had fallen, when He said, “To the dust you shall return,” as though that is the way we must walk if we would return to the Garden.

Brothers and sisters, Adam was created in the image of God and he was placed in the Garden to keep it and to work it. The Garden of Eden is an icon, a “mirror” of our own soul.

Before they were expelled from the Garden, Adam and Eve were given another set of commandments: to bear children and to till the earth in pain – i.e., in the pain of self-denial, of taking up the Cross – in order to return to the dust of the ground whence they came; i.e., in order to lose their earthly life for the sake of Christ and His Holy Gospel. This is the way back to the Garden: the way of the Cross. It is the way that unites us to Christ in the likeness of His death, and therefore also to the likeness of His Holy Resurrection, so that the mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection becomes our very life, the most intimate and inmost experience of our soul. This is why we will “see” Christ when we go to where He goes before us into Galilee. Galilee, is the mystery of His Cross that opens onto the deepest mystery of who we really are and the reason of our existence: to become partakers of the divine nature, communicants of life eternal, to become one with Christ as He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to worship Him and to praise Him without end as the spontaneous, natural expression of a joy not of this world that blesses our soul and overflows from our heart as from a wellspring (cf. Prov 4:23) in love for Christ who first loved us and gave Himself for us by ascending the Cross.

You see, then, “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ,” we have beheld the salvation that Christ has worked in the midst of the earth, in the midst of our souls, destroying our death by His death, cleansing us from our sins and our unrighteousness, and so freeing us at the root of our will from the devil who for such a long time had held us, paralyzed, in His power through the fear of death. If, therefore, we want to, we can take up our bed as the LORD commands and walk to Galilee, that we might see Him, that He might become our very life, and the mystery of His death and Resurrection the principle of our life.

We now hear the Angel’s word: “He goes before you into Galilee; there you will see Him as He told you!” calling us to the work our LORD set before those who would follow Him: take up our bed, our cross, the ascetic and sacramental life of the Church, and walk through our days in this life with one goal: to become like God, to submit our will to His love in obedience to His commandments, to purify our senses, to make our will strong in Christ, and so we shall see Christ risen from the dead! Amen.