|43 - They Brought to Him a Paralytic, July 20, 2014|
It says that He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. In the mystery of the LORD’s becoming flesh of the Holy Virgin the heavens are opened and time opens onto eternity, the outer world opens onto the inner world. The Savior getting into a boat in the outer world, crossing over and coming to His own city recapitulates, as does every moment of His earthly sojourn, the whole mystery of His Incarnation, and as such, it opens onto the inner world of the human soul.
His getting into a boat symbolizes His becoming flesh of the Holy Virgin. However, His getting into a boat in this morning’s Gospel follows immediately upon last Sunday’s Gospel when He “came onto the other side or into the beyond” and cast out the demons from the Gergesene demoniacs. That was clearly symbolic of His saving Passion and Burial when He destroyed the power of death by His death on the Cross and His descent into Hades, where He shattered the iron bars, and gave life to those in the tombs. The boat of this morning’s Gospel, then, looks like a symbol of the Church, Christ’s crucified, risen and glorified body. From the “other side”, it says this morning that He “crossed over and came to His own city.” Christ is the New Adam. When He emptied Himself and became flesh, He “crossed over and came to His own” in “His own city,” symbolizing His Holy Resurrection when He came forth from the tomb as He comes forth from the tombs of the Gergesenes. His tomb was in a garden (Jn 19:41), but it became the Garden of Resurrection, just as the Gergesene tombs became the site of deliverance from death and healing from the torment of the demons.
In the Garden of His Resurrection, Christ appeared first to His All-Holy Mother, the New Eve; and so, even as we see in Christ getting into the boat an icon of “Our Lady of the Sign”, we see also the New Adam and the New Eve in the Garden of Eden that has been opened to all, the flaming sword having withdrawn so that all who wish may enter to partake of the Tree of Life.
That is to say, the boat of the Church, the Body of Christ, the Body that was formed from the pure blood of the Virgin and came forth from her womb as from the tomb in the Garden, is the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s “own city”. But if all of this opens onto the inner world of our soul, then the Church is our own heart and when He comes into the Garden of Eden, “His own city,” He comes into the inner world of our own soul. He comes into our own heart as into His own city, the Garden of Eden.
In the boat, in the mystery of the Church, the LORD came to His own city and they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Who are these “they”? Perhaps we can see them as the saints in whom God loves to dwell: the holy patriarchs and prophets, the Panagia, St John the Baptist, the holy apostles, the holy martyrs and all the saints. And, who is the paralytic? You and me, paralyzed in our inner spirit as though dead, lying on the bed of our sins and trespasses in the tomb of our hearts. When we receive Christ into our souls, our heart becomes “His own city”, even His Church, His Body, His Holy Temple; and if we look around, we see we are not alone. A great cloud of witnesses surrounds us: the prophets and the holy apostles, the martyrs and all the saints, in whom the LORD loves to dwell. And what are they doing? In the love of God and His Holy Mother, they are bringing us to the LORD, just as “they” brought the paralytic to the LORD in this morning’s Gospel.
It says that Jesus saw their faith. He saw the love they had for the paralytic, the love the saints have for us in the inexpressibly tender love of Christ and His Holy Mother. And, just as He said to the paralytic, surely He is saying to each one of us here this morning who have gathered here to receive Christ in His “own city”: “Be of good cheer, my child! Your sins are forgiven!” The picture is identical to Holy Baptism, especially when the one who is brought for baptism is an infant. Then, it is the infant to be baptized who is the paralytic, and we are “they” bringing the infant to the LORD in our faith, in our love.
God desires not the death of a sinner but that he turn from his sin and live. The LORD tells us that if we ask anything in His Name – i.e., if we ask in accordance with His Holy Will – it will be granted. Moreover, He commands us to ask and to seek. Ask and it shall be opened; seek and ye shall find – so we should keep asking until it is opened, for it shall be opened; we should keep seeking until we have found, for the LORD and His Goodness will be found!
Therefore, to bring a loved one to the LORD in prayer, asking that the LORD have mercy on him, is to pray in the LORD’s Name; and so, we have every reason to believe that our prayer will be granted. Such a high calling, such joy, to pray in the LORD’s Name like this! We find ourselves in the company of the prophets, the holy apostles, the most blessed Panagia, St John the Baptist, the martyrs and all the saints, and we find ourselves ascending up into their prayer that is for the whole world.
His power to heal the paralytic proves He has power to forgive sins; and that, in turn, proves that He is God, since God alone has the power to forgive sins. More than that, however, it reveals the nature of forgiveness. Its inner essence, if you will, is the healing of our soul and body. But now, the LORD forgives and heals in the power of His Cross. His Cross is the shape of divine love. It is the shape of the LORD’s forgiveness, and that’s why the LORD’s forgiveness heals completely, even to the point of raising us into the life of God that lives in the love of God that abides forever. It washes away our sin to reveal our true character as beloved children of God. Oh, and to catch even a glimpse of how tenderly compassionate the LORD is toward us, the heart cannot contain it without breaking. And so, His forgiveness, the expression of His love for us, softens us. The eyes become fonts of living water; and our stone that seals our heart is rolled away, and we are healed, raised to life, able to take up our bed and go to our house; able to go into our heart and become who we really are; beloved of God who love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.
Beloved faithful, do we not experience this healing power of the LORD’s forgiveness when we confess all our sins from a broken and contrite heart in the sacrament of confession? Even “thorns” of the flesh that may remain by God’s will are transfigured to become instruments of our healing; for, they become our cross whereby we learn humility and trust in God as we strive to put to death what is earthly in us. They become the means whereby our hearts are enlarged as we begin to taste and see how ineffably sweet and tender is the love of God when He comes to us as into “His own city” and in His love for us, and in the faith of His Holy Mother and all the saints, He begins to cleanse us of lust, greed, anger, and to heal us of anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness.
Take up your bed and go into your house, says the LORD to the paralytic whom He has forgiven and healed. Take up your cross – which may include a “thorn” in the flesh that remains – and follow Christ into the tomb of your heart now made into a bridal chamber. For, our heart is the LORD’s “own city”; it is the house, the temple in which the LORD wants to dwell and to fill us with the radiant cloud of His Glory, the sweet dew of His Holy Spirit, so that even we may become partakers of His own divine nature in the love of God the Father, in the grace of Our LORD Jesus Christ, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.
In this vision, we grieve for the world that has rejected the apostolic proclamation of God made flesh, born of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin, for they are rejecting the love of God their heart yearns for and which alone would heal them. And so, in this loving faith of Christ’s Holy Church, Christ’s Body, we enter the company of the saints, and with them take up the life-creating and healing prayers of the Church as our cross that the LORD would have mercy not only on our own souls but also on the souls of our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, wives, husbands and children, even the whole world, just as He had on the paralytic. Amen.