The Sunday of the Paralytic
Today is the fourth Sunday after Pascha – on this day is appointed the Gospel reading of the healing of the paralytic who had waited at the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight long years and we also hear from the Acts of the Apostles of the healing of the paralyzed man named Aeneas and of Peter’s wondrous raising of Tabitha from the dead.
We have spoken before about the healing of the man at the pool – how he modeled such patience and persistence in seeking out his cure; how he held on to his faith and hope, enduring so many years of disappointment; and of how, when Christ did come and called him to arise, he did not hesitate or doubt, but immediately, he took up his bed and walked as he was commanded by our Lord.
Let’s take a look also at the scene set before us in the Epistle reading for this day. Today’s Epistle tells us how the Apostle Peter had traveled widely and came to a place called Lydda. There he met a man named Aeneas who had been bedridden for over eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole, arise and make thy bed.” And Aeneas was immediately healed. These miracles wrought by the hand of Apostle Peter were being made known near and far and soon two men from the neighboring town of Joppa came to fetch Apostle Peter. Their friend Tabitha had died - a woman who, the Epistles tell us, was ‘full of good works and almsgiving’. Peter went with these men and was brought into the upper chamber where she lay and all the widows stood by her weeping. We read that, “Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning to the body said, ‘Tabitha, arise’. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.”
I would like to point out three things for us to think about from today’s Gospel and Epistle readings. First, we see the source of Grace - which comes from God. Second, we see the conditions of Grace - which are a loving heart of compassion and service. And third, we see the continuity of Grace – an unbroken lineage and inheritance given by God and handed down from Christ to Apostle and from generation to generation, never leaving us orphaned.
When our Lord Jesus Christ healed the sick and the paralyzed, He did so by the power of His Godhood. Jesus Christ, as the second Person of the Holy Trinity, as the Source of Grace and healing, performed His miracles through that Grace which He possessed and poured forth from the goodness of His Being. When we read of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, we witness Apostle Peter boldly saying, “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.” The healing power of Grace was not something which came from Peter… he simply acted as the steward and channel of that Grace which had its source in Jesus Christ. This is the first point we should recognize and understand – the source and power of Grace and all goodness comes from God. If we manifest any goodness, any healing, any love – we must give God the glory, for this grace of goodness, healing and love find their source in Him… and for this we should be grateful.
Secondly, we mentioned that there were certain conditions in which this life-giving Grace of God was made manifest. As our Lord passed by the man at the pool of Bethesda, He was moved with compassion for the sick man’s condition and his persistence and patience. As Apostle Peter came into the towns of Lydda and Joppa, he was responding to the sorrow and petitions of those who loved Aeneas and Tabitha. This healing and life-giving Grace of God was made manifest through the compassionate love of God and of His disciples. In each case, there was a situation of human sorrow and need, a broken and humble heart crying out in pain. And this cry was heard and responded to by a grace-filled heart of compassionate love through which God’s healing and glory were made manifest.
Third, we must rejoice and be greatly encouraged to see that our Lord did not leave us orphaned when His earthly ministry was accomplished and He ascended into heaven. As He promised, He sent us the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Treasury of Good Gifts and Giver of Life. The story of the Power and Grace of God by no means concludes with the Gospels, but continues with the Acts of the Apostles, as we see in today’s reading. And this unbroken chain of Grace and sanctity extends throughout Christian history. In every century and in every land, God has raised up holy men and women who shine forth the grace and transforming, resurrectional power of God.
Even in our own times, we are not deprived of such holy ones that manifest this life-giving Grace of God… in Greece we recently saw such luminaries as St Nectarios of Pentapolis, St Nicholas Planas of Athens, Sts Paisios and Porphyrios of Mt Athos. In Russia we have the whole host of new martyrs, the righteous priest John of Kronstadt, Blessed Xenia of St Petersburg, and many others. Romania has also brought forth innumerable martyrs and has given us such recent holy ones as St John the Hozevite, Elder Cleopas, Fr George Calciu, and many others. And here in America we have been blessed to have in our midst such luminaries and wonderworkers as St Nikolai Velimirovich and our own St John of Shanghai and San Francisco – who continues to perform miracles of healing and consolation which attest to the grace of God.
May God continue to bless us with His Grace and may we always recognize and glorify Him as the source of all goodness. May we call upon that Grace with humble hearts and radiate that goodness through compassionate love. And may we cherish and uphold that inheritance of Grace passed from generation to generation in the beauty of the life-giving soil of His Church.