A new paradigm

Homily 508 – 6 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 24, 2022
Epistle:  (110) Romans 12:6-14 and (181) 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Gospel:  (29) Matthew 9:1-8 and (33) Luke 7:36-50

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

Sometimes people ask, “why does God ask me to endure this?”, whatever “this” may be.  I’m sure this paralytic had that thought many, many times.

So when Christ says, “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven” he is telling us something important.

His ways are not our ways.  His priority is not our priority.  We prioritize the physical.  He prioritizes the spiritual – the true reality.

Your sins are those things that separate us from God.  Maybe a better definition would be that the sins are those things that distract us from God.

Distractions can – and frequently are – physical.  Illnesses, deformity, mental challenges, and many other ailments of mind and body that can distract us, redirecting our focus away from Christ.

Christ reminds us, as he reminded the paralytic, that our sins – our distractions – are forgiven.  Meaning, we are free to refocus ourselves and our lives to Christ our God.

We are forgiven, so that we might repent.  Repent, as we’ve said before, means to return to God – to return our focus from whatever distracts us back to God.

To put it in terms perhaps we all can understand, it is like controlling a moving vehicle, and being distracted by a text or cell phone call, or even a beautiful scene.  When we are distracted, we begin to lose control.

We begin to crash.

And when we repent, returning our focus to controlling the vehicle, moving it in the intended direction, we halt that process of crashing.

So, God’s forgiveness enables repentance.

The people who heard Christ address the paralytic had a question, however.  And, perhaps a question we should have.

“Who is this man who has the power to forgive sins?”  Who has the authority to give us forgiveness?  Doesn’t forgiveness come from God?

And of course, the answer is yes, forgiveness comes from God.  And yes, this man Jesus Christ is, while being human, also God.

And he doesn’t just say it – which would be blasphemy, if not for the fact that he demonstrates it.  So that we may know that he is God, and has the power and ability – and willingness – to forgive sins, he offers physical healing to the paralytic.

When we find ourselves distracted, whether it be physical or mental or emotional – or even distracted by beauty and wonder – we can be of good cheer in the midst of our sin.  Because we are forgiven.

We may or may not find relief for the distractions we encounter.  We can, however, endure whatever we are called to endure with the knowledge that we are forgiven.

We can begin to focus all of our attention to God, and in so doing, endure whatever physical and other challenges we face.

That is what we are called to do in Christ – to use whatever our circumstances are to ensure our focus remains on God.

In so doing we make what St. Paul wrote a reality – that God provides everything for our benefit.

What does that mean?  It means that our circumstances may be the cause of our falling away from God, or for drawing us closer to God.  If we draw closer to God, whatever the experience we endure, it is good.

If it draws us away from God, it is bad.

And that is how we need to begin to see everything in our lives.  Does our reaction cause us to draw near to God, or to turn away from God?

Does the reaction cause unity or division?  Does our reaction manifest the Holy Spirit?

This becomes the paradigm by which we begin to see the world.  We still experience pain, and disappointment, and frustration.  But we no longer see them as good or bad – they just are.

The meaning we give to them is our reaction – do we respond by focusing or refocusing our attention on God?  That becomes good.

To shake our fist at God, or lament our situation and look to comfort ourselves in other ways becomes bad.

That doesn’t mean the pain, the frustration, the disappointment or whatever we experience goes away.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.  Just because it seems that God is mad at us or punishing us – that isn’t the case.

That is a lie given us by the evil one to deceive us, to cause our separation from God.

In fact, like all humanity, we will have to endure whatever our circumstance regardless.  Circumstances don’t always change because we want them to or we ask God to change them.

Remember Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.  He asks God – if possible, let this cup, that is, his death and separation from God, pass from him, that he may not have to partake of it.

Jesus asked God to change his circumstances, but he also added nevertheless, not my will but yours be done, Heavenly Father.

We all know what happened.  Christ, by dying, injected life into death itself.  Like a light driving out all darkness, death ceased to exist.

And although painful and tragic, it was life-giving to humanity.

We are asked to endure.  We are asked to be like Christ, and pick up our cross which is self-denial.  We are asked to follow Him.

And in so doing, we find our own salvation.

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