Homily 368 – 6th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 28, 2019
Epistle: (110) Romans 12:6-14
Gospel: (29) Matthew 9:1-8
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
We think, most often, in terms of our physical needs. We respond to physical pain, to our senses – hunger, injury. Even our emotions – happiness, sadness, embarrassment.
In this morning’s Gospel reading, our Lord reminds us, in a not-so-subtle way, that our physical and emotional issues shouldn’t drive us. Shouldn’t direct us.
People brought a paralytic to Christ. He couldn’t walk. And Christ saw their faith. Not just the man’s faith – the faith of the group of friends was influential also.
There is a small lesson for those who might question the value of prayer for one another. It may be the result of your faith, your prayer, that someone else is healed.
More important than that – Christ sees the faith, and answering the faith, tells the paralytic his sins are forgiven.
Now – I’ll be honest. I doubt the paralytic and his friends went to Jesus to have sin forgiven. They went to have physical healing.
Why would Christ then respond by forgiveness?
Through this simple action by Christ, this nearly parenthetical comment, Christ teaches us that it is sin that is the root of our every need – not our physical condition.
It is sin that paralyzes us. All of us – including you and me.
It is sin that gets in the way every time we want to do good and fail. It is sin that causes us to sleep in rather than offer our prayers to God, or to attend a party instead of meditating on the instruction of our Lord and His Holy Church.
In a sense, the physical paralysis of sin is a blessing! Just like death may be a blessing. Both prevent us from acting on our sinful impulses and cut short our ability to continue in self-absorbed disobedience.
In seeking our healing, though, the problem is always sin. Healing is the same as reconciliation. Same as forgiveness.
We can endure everything, even with joy, when we are fully connected with God. When sin no longer keeps us away from God.
Whether we experience pain, or hunger, or paralysis, or loneliness – all becomes tolerable when we are at one with God.
Because we then know that whatever forces are playing on us from outside, it is for our perfection and for our salvation – our unity with God.
This is a radical concept – so radical that the scribes, who were the religious lawyers and religious police of the Jewish nation, called the idea “blasphemous.”
And blasphemy was the ultimate transgression of the Law of Moses. Lots of irony here.
So Jesus connects the dots for them, much to their embarrassment.
Why do you think evil thoughts? To which I’m sure the scribes thought, what, recognizing blasphemy is not evil!
Which is easier to say – and, implied here, which is easier to say and mean it – your sins are forgiven, or rise, walk?
Christ, in order to illustrate his power to forgive, commands the paralytic to rise and walk. And he does.
And the crowd goes wild.
How many of us look at this account and still evaluate the overall impact of the healing as the physical?
One of the lies that the evil one has convinced us is that sin isn’t important. It doesn’t matter.
Not only does it truly matter, it matters the most of everything in our fallen world. It is the first cause – the prime cause – of everything fallen.
Pride – self-focus, selfish – is the root of every other sin, and is the root of every aspect of our fallen-ness.
We want to focus on ourselves – and we are told by the world that focus is good and right, but it isn’t. Not at all.
The good and right focus is the attention given to what separates us from God. Our focus is eliminating sin, and our forgiveness from it.
Doing that may be easier said than done. We have to take it in two parts – the first part is to ignore what the evil one, and what the world, tells us.
The best way to do that is to stop listening to the world. The world, and a lot of the messages from the evil one, come to us from media. We need to turn it off.
Then, we may have an easier time ignoring what we don’t hear to begin with.
After that – without the sound and distraction from the media and our entertainment, we can begin to spend time with the services of the Church, in prayer, and in reading the Scriptures and the advice of the saints.
It is there where God can speak to us.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!