|43 Beholding Their Faith, July 8, 2018|
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It says that Jesus beheld the faith of those who brought the paralytic on a bed to Him. And of the scribes, it says that He beheld the evil they were pondering within themselves. The force of the Greek is intense. It drives us into the unseen core of the inner man.
Of course, the LORD could see what the paralytic’s friends were doing. Everyone could. Their actions were the expression of the faith that was in their hearts; and it was this faith behind their actions that the LORD saw.
As for the scribes, it says that they were speaking within or even among themselves. That is, either they were thinking and not talking out loud or they were whispering to one another so that no one could hear. But, Jesus could see what was in their hearts, too. And, whereas He saw faith in the hearts of the paralytic and his friends, He saw evil in the hearts of the scribes.
It’s not that they were being pestered against their will by evil thoughts. They were welcoming and embracing them. They were in willful collusion with them, and they were relishing them to the point that they were arrogating to themselves the presumption of judging the LORD who was their God.
Yet, the LORD does not say, why are your hearts so evil? He says, why do you hold within yourselves these evil thoughts in your hearts? Do you see how He distinguishes between their heart and the evil their heart was receiving and copulating with?
Let us note that the paralytic was enslaved to the paralysis of his body against his will. The scribes are enslaved to the paralysis of the evil thoughts willingly.
The paralytic who doesn’t want to be paralyzed is blessed with friends who bring him to the LORD for healing because he wants to be healed. I am inclined to believe that this desire to be healed is the faith the LORD saw in the paralytic and his friends.
But, the scribes paralyzed in their heart because they want to be, do not bring themselves to the LORD for healing. They don’t want to be healed. If they were to want to be healed, that would mean acknowledging that they needed to be healed; and, that would mean acknowledging that they were not just fine the way they are.
I see in the LORD’s word to them – “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘rise and walk’? And so, in order that you may know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins,” followed by His command to the paralytic which, when the paralytic obeys it, heals the paralytic – I see in this word the LORD’s mercy even to these self-righteous scribes. I see Him giving them the opportunity to see their spiritual paralysis and to bring themselves to Him for healing along with the paralytic.
But do we not see these scribes today? Do we not see how hard it is for people to acknowledge that they are paralyzed, that they’re not just fine the way they are, that the law of sin, as St Paul teaches, is embodied in us such that our bodies in many different ways are the concretization, if you will, of the sin of Adam? Or, as St Macarius says: “Sin entering into the soul has become like a member of it and is united with the bodily heart.” (Hom XV.35) Not to acknowledge one’s sin would seem therefore to love one’s paralysis, whether spiritual or bodily, and so to become enslaved to it by one’s own choice: “He who does the wishes of his soul does the wishes of evil, because it is entwined and mingled with the soul.” (Ibid)
These are today’s version of the scribes. They are also the most belligerent and the most intolerant of those who do not embrace the particular “cause”, the particular “human right” they are championing, to the point that they hold evil thoughts in their heart and condemn the LORD’s WORD to those of us paralytics who want to be healed. They are even today’s religious scholars talking amongst themselves, pretending to “listen”, but to whose word? And any word that would come from the WORD of the LORD, that would expose the evil of their word, they would condemn by claiming that it is out of date.
So, what if the paralytic had not wanted to be healed? I don’t think the issue is whether or not we are paralyzed, because the LORD can take care of that as He wills for our salvation. I believe the issue is whether or not we want to be healed. Because if we don’t want to be healed, well, the LORD can’t work with that.
I think it very important to note that the LORD does not heal the paralytic of his paralysis right away. He first forgives him of his sins and then he heals the paralytic as though to show that if we scribes would, we could be healed of our sins and our spiritual paralysis as well.
Scribes seem to act as though they are gods, whether or not they admit it, because they do not submit themselves in obedience to God; and, when His WORD exposes the evil of the word – let’s say of the opinion, the philosophical or religious assertions – they hold in their heads, they do not let go of their word. Rather, they presume to judge the WORD of God and to condemn it.
It is the teaching of Scripture and the holy fathers that we cannot fathom the depths of God’s creation so that we would have the wisdom, the competence to pronounce judgment on it. And, it is not our business to fathom God’s creation; our business in this life is to repent, to orient our heart away from the self-righteous arrogance of our ego in order to present ourselves to God in the humility of a broken and contrite heart, in the desire to be made clean and whole and new according to the WORD of God in whose image we are made. That is, we are made in the image of God’s WORD, not in the image of our own word. When we take refuge in our own word, we become scribes, paralyzed in our heart and blind to its divine form, and therefore blind to the LORD Jesus Christ who made us, and who in the preaching and teaching and sacramental mysteries of His WORD is in our midst!
I note, then, as I said, that the LORD first forgives the paralytics sins; then He heals him of the paralysis of his body. I believe the spiritual lesson here is that when we present ourselves to the LORD in the humility of a broken and contrite heart, in the faith that wants to be healed, the LORD cleanses us of our sins, the root cause of our paralysis; and then He sets about to heal us of our paralysis. In today’s Gospel, He heals the paralytic right then and there. For us today, the LORD it seems does not heal us of our bodily paralysis immediately. But from today’s Gospel we can see that He forgives our sins, and in that forgiveness, we see that He is healing us of our paralysis in a way He knows is for our salvation.
But, note that the paralytic is healed when He obeys the LORD’s command: “Rise, take up your bed and walk, and go into your own house.” From this, we can see that we, too, will be healed of our paralysis only as we are obedient to the WORD of the LORD. What I see is that the paralysis becomes the occasion for me to practice the command of the LORD to all those who would follow Him and be His disciples: “Let anyone who desires to be my disciple, deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” Where do we follow Him? Into His Sabbath Rest, or into our own house, into the “tomb” of our heart, to precisely that point where I choose whom I will follow and serve as my LORD. How do I follow Him to that point in my heart where I choose whom I will serve as my LORD and God? By denying myself, by denying my own wisdom, my own ideas, my own “rights”, and obeying the WORD of the LORD’s commandments. In this way, I crucify what is earthly in me, namely my ego and the self-righteousness of my ego. This is how I begin to see my paralysis and to come into that faith that wants to be healed. This is what opens my heart gladly to receive the WORD of the LORD that gives me the power to become a child of God, a new creation. Amen!