Finding the friendless.

Homily 308 – 4th of Pascha (Paralytic)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 29, 2018

Epistle: (23) – Acts 9:32-43
Gospel: (14) – John 5:1-15

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Christ is Risen! Christos Voskrese! Christos Anesthi!

It is difficult to look at the Gospel accounts through the lens of Roman Judea.

We see Christ, our Lord, traveling around, and if we are honest, asking some pretty silly questions.

Today, for example. A man, sick for thirty-eight years, was sitting at the Lourdes of ancient Jerusalem, where healings were rumored to take place.

And Jesus asks him: Do you want to be made well?

We hear that, and perhaps bristle a bit. What a silly question! Why would we waste our time here if we weren’t after healing? Thirty eight years!

Do I want to be made well … duh. Of course I do, but I’m at a disadvantage here – only one gets healed and I’ve got no one to help me.

I’ve got no one to help me.

Thirty eight years – and I’ve got no one to help me.

I imagine when this man first arrived, maybe he did have help. He had people with him. People who visited him.

But thirty-eight years? That’s a long time. Who, now or then, would stay for thirty-eight years to help this man get into the water to seek healing? Who would sit vigil for that long?

So my guess is that this guy sat at this pool, alone. Without anything. Amidst the bustle of the city gate – yet utterly alone. And not just alone, but ignored.

Now don’t misunderstand – people of that day were busy also. They lived a subsistence life, for the most part. Jesus taught them to pray for their daily bread, partially because the vast majority had no storehouse.

What food they got they received that day – with only hope for tomorrow’s food.

And we are busy – but for much different reasons. We are busy in pursuit of comfort and leisure – as a society, I’m not casting aspersions on individuals here.

Our society pursues not today’s food, but comfort and leisure. Financial independence. For ourselves.

We don’t have the time to sit with even our important friends, the friends who can do something for us – much less the sick and the invalid.

The thing I take away from the Gospel account isn’t really that the man was healed, or even the faith of the man. Those with faith who encounter Christ are healed, so there isn’t anything unusual in that.

What I take away is that Christ sought out the lonely. The abandoned. The ones without help.

And he asks us to do the same.

The best place to start is with those who are in our line of sight, but we don’t see.

I will say it is challenging in our time to distinguish between the scammer and the needy.

When I was in New York City, I would see street people asking for money. Some were performers and artists. Some were homeless. Some were scammers.

The primary way to tell the difference, in my experience, is that the needy want help – but scammers want cash, and only cash.

In my day job we serve the homeless in Polk County. Rarely do we give them money. We’ll give them transportation, housing, utilities, food – but not money.

What Jesus gives, and what we are asked to give, isn’t money. It’s ourselves.

When I was in seminary, an elderly lady died. She had one person attend her funeral. One. Her grandson.

The seminarians at St. Tikhon’s served as her choir at the funeral. A few of us were pallbearers, even though we hadn’t met the woman before.

No one should be alone. No one deserves to be alone.

I’ve said before – our most severe punishment is exile – solitary confinement. It is excruciating.

And it is what this paralytic by the pool at the Sheep’s gate in Jerusalem experienced.

Brothers and sisters, we are asked to share. Share our resources, share our selves. We give time. We give attention. We give love.

Whether it is in a nursing home, a homeless shelter, a hospital, a prision – whatever the setting, we need to look for, and find, those who are lonely and abandoned. And be with them.

What we will see is that by being with them, by being present, we manifest Christ to them. And like the paralytic, they also will receive healing.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!