Romans 12.6-14

Matthew 9.1-8

Reading the Bible from inside the LORD’s Tomb, the Font of His Holy Resurrection, we see the mystery of God that was made visible, centuries ago now, in the LORD Jesus ‘getting into a boat and crossing over to come into His own city.’ The boat is an image on the one hand of the Holy Virgin Theotokos. When the Son of God emptied Himself, He crossed over the deep and descended into the womb of the Beloved Panagia as though stepping into His Boat, and became man. On Christmas Day, He stepped onto the shore of this earthly life and ‘came to His own city’ (cf. Jn 1.11).

He came to us, His own creatures whom He made for immortality in the image of His own eternity (Wisd 2.23). But we were fallen prisoner to the devil through the fear of death (Wisd 2.24; Heb 2.15). He ascended the Cross and stepped out of His Body as out of His boat; and, in the soul of His human nature, He descended into hell, into the dark and shadowy region of the tombs. There He routed the devil and all His hosts and all His pride. This is the mystery of the LORD’s Holy Pascha that was made visible in last Sunday’s Gospel when the LORD stepped out of His boat onto the shore of the Gadarenes to confront the legion of demons holding the two demoniacs captive and sent the demons fleeing into the abyss.

This morning’s Gospel, then, when He gets into His boat again and comes to His own city, takes us to the Day of Christ’s Holy Resurrection when He stepped again into the Boat of His Body that was crucified, dead and buried; and, having passed through hell, having destroyed death by His death and giving life to those in the tombs, He comes again to His own creation, to the man made in His image and likeness. In these hidden deeps of the mystery of God, the LORD is coming to each one of us this morning; for the spiritual reality of the LORD coming in His resurrected Body – in the Boat of His Church – to His own is ever-present to each one of us so long as it is Today (Heb 3.13).

What does He find when He comes to each one of us? Does He not find us as paralytics? How so?

A body enslaved to paralysis is like a living corpse. Paralysis of the body, however, is but a visible form of the paralysis of the spirit. In the prophets, paralysis of spirit is the fruit of idolatry. Those who worship the idols, says the Psalmist, are just like them. In their spirit, they have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear, hands that do not feel, feet that do not walk, mouths that do not speak.

For idolatry is an orientation of the heart. It is the opposite of faith in that it is spiritual fornication. Sexual fornication is but a bodily form of idolatry. In idolatry, the heart gives her desire and her love to copulate with an alien spirit, a lord who is not her true husband. Her true husband is the Heavenly Bridegroom, the LORD Jesus Christ, the Image of God in whom she was conceived and brought into being herself as an image of the Image of God.

Our Gospel this morning makes visible the inexpressible love of the Savior. Seeing that we had fallen into death and corruption, He became flesh and clothed Himself in our death and corruption. He ascended the Cross and did not cease to do all things until He had delivered us from our spiritual paralysis by destroying our death by His death and giving life to us in the tombs. He transfigured our heart into His Bridal Chamber. All who descend with their mind into their heart and who draw near to Him in faith and love may become partakers of His own divine nature; for in His Incarnation, consummated in His Holy Pascha, He has become bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh; and we, if deny ourselves and follow Him, and lose our life for His sake – if we give our heart to Him in love – we become flesh of His flesh, bone of His bones, spirit of His Spirit.

St Matthew says: ‘When Jesus saw the faith of those who brought the paralytic to Him.’ Behold the power of intercessory prayer! We call on the saints to intercede for us because they loved the LORD who first loved us to the end. ‘When He saw their faith,’ St Matthew continues, ‘He says to the paralytic: ‘Your sins are forgiven.’’ And then, to prove to the unbelieving scribes that He has power to forgive sins, He commands the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed and go down to your house.’

Here is revealed the unity of our body and our spirit. All our maladies stem, finally, from our heart where we have given our desire not to the Only Lover of Mankind, the LORD Jesus Christ, but to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Through lust, we have fallen into the corruption of death and our souls have become paralyzed in many different ways: in patterns of thought and behavior, in fears and anxieties, angers and jealousies, in the fascination of fornication and pornography, addiction to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and so many more, among which we might do well to include our lust for the conceit of our own opinions. Alienated from God LORD, our soul becomes ill at ease, agitated, anxious, bitter, jaded, perpetually dissatisfied, empty and dark; we seek escape from our inner boredom and our deeper loneliness by seeking refuge in the entertainments and fantasies of the world. But they never deliver what they promise because they, too, are empty and passing away. The paralysis that takes hold of our soul in this idolatrous lifestyle is manifested in the loss of our capacity for intimacy, for our heart is all but shriveled up and withered away. This, in turn, takes the form of a self-centered neediness that suffocates all our relationships, making us even more lonely and empty.

When Jesus, then, raises the paralytic from his bed, He is at the same time raising the paralytic from death and filling him with the eternal life of His Holy Spirit. He says to the paralytic: ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ This is the same word that both Matthew and Mark use to proclaim the mystery of Jesus’ death on the Cross; but it is translated differently in English, and so we miss it: ‘He sent forth His Spirit,’ is how we translate Matthew and Mark. And, immediately, says St Matthew, ‘the curtain of the temple was split [as the heavens had been split at His Baptism in the Jordan], the earth shook, the rocks were split, the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.’

The LORD, then, is healing the paralytic this morning from the Paschal mystery of His Cross. By His WORD, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ the LORD is sending His Spirit not just into the paralytic’s body but also into his soul. He is shattering the brass bars and iron gates of the man’s paralysis and raising his soul from death to life.

So when the LORD says to the unbelieving scribes: ‘That you may know the Son of Man (the incarnate God) has the power to forgive sins,’ do we not see Him now, not so much rebuking their hardness of heart as rather calling them to faith? He is directing them to look with their physical eyes if not their spiritual eyes (which are blinded by their idolatry), to see from His raising the paralytic that He is indeed the God who alone has the power to forgive sins. He is the WORD of God Moses was speaking about who is very near to you, in your heart and in your mouth, so that you can do the Law. You can love the LORD with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, if you want to. For by His Incarnation and Holy Pascha, He is in you, forgiving your sins and raising you from death to life.

If the cold ache of uneasiness and bitterness is the symptom of the soul’s spiritual paralysis, then the divine warmth that settles softly on us when we draw near the LORD in the fear of God, with faith and love, is the sign that the LORD is delivering us from our paralysis and raising us to life. Another sign is that our innate creativity is released in the form of the ‘gifts’ of the Spirit. The word for ‘gift’ comes from ‘joy.’ It also means ‘to forgive.’ Divine forgiveness and our deliverance from spiritual paralysis and death now comes into view as Joseph’s garment of many colors where the many colors are the many gifts of joy and kindness that are all the signs of the divine forgiveness we receive when we put on Christ in Holy Baptism, the Robe of Light, the Robe of Joy and of Many Colors, and are raised to life.

It comes to me from this that one way we take up our bed and follow Christ is by giving the love of our heart not to the empty entertainments of the world that is passing away but to the enjoyment that comes from tapping and developing our own native talents in the joy of divine forgiveness that we receive in the form of the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are gifts of divine joy and kindness, and they fill us with joy because when we join our own unique talents and skills to the gifts of the Spirit, our own talents then become a way for us to express our love for the God who first loved us and who alone abides forever. Amen!