Sunday of the Paralytic
In the Gospel reading appointed for this day, we heard about the healing of the paralytic. Our Lord had come to Jerusalem to observe one of the Jewish feasts. Near one of the gates of the city was a pool which had healing powers as an angel of the Lord would come to stir up the waters. The first person into the waters at the time of this stirring would be healed of their illness. Surrounding the pool lay a multitude of sick people – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. Among these was a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. He had been coming to the pool in faith and hope for many years, but each time the waters were stirred, another person would make it into the waters before him. As our Lord passed by, He had pity on the man and, after asking him if he would like to be made well, commanded that he take up his bed and walk. The man was immediately cured and went on his way carrying his former sick bed.
There are many lessons for us to draw from this Gospel… surely one of the most striking and inspiring things from this account is the patience and persistence of this man. The Gospel tells that he suffered with his infirmity for 38 years! Day after day, month after month, year after year he came to the pool in hope of making his way into the waters. Day after day, month after month, year after year he was not successful. With patience and persistence he continued to struggle toward his healing. I’m sure there must have been days when he was utterly dejected, utterly frustrated… there must have been days when his faith wavered and he must have felt that his situation was hopeless.
Isn’t it often the same with us? Perhaps we have some sin that is paralyzing us. Our sins create an obstacle between us and God. Day after day, month after month, year after year we may come before the Lord in prayer, we may come to the Church seeking healing from our persistent sins. And yet day after day, month after month, year after year we are not successful. Our sins persist and we may reach the point of feeling utterly dejected, utterly frustrated… there may be days when our faith wavers and we may feel that our situation is hopeless. In our impatience for ‘results’, we may be tempted to give up in despair! We may feel utterly paralyzed in our spiritual life.
Let us return to our friend, the paralytic… even though the days and months and years passed and he had not been able to get into the pool, still he remained and still he persisted in seeking his cure. He continued to place himself in the proximity and presence of God and of the hope of his cure… and it was here that our Lord encountered him and asked him if he wished to be made well.
It is no coincidence that Jesus encountered him there are the pool near the Sheep’s Gate. If the paralytic had not remained there in the place of his struggles and of his hope, he would have missed this meeting with the Lord. He struggled for years and years to get himself into the pool, and yet it was not the healing waters of the pool that finally cured him. It was his patience and persistence that allowed him to be in this right place at the right time to encounter Christ God Himself. And Christ, of course, knew of his prayers and of his hopes and of his struggles. His cure came at the bidding of the Lord ‘Do you wish to be made well?’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… let us draw inspiration and hope from the paralytic who was healed. Even when our sins paralyze us, even when there seems to be no hope for us – let us continue in patience and let us be persistent in our cries to the Lord and in our determined efforts to draw ourselves to the source of our healing.
Our time and our culture are not conducive to the Gospel injunction: ‘In patience possess ye your soul!’ We are an impatient people. And yet, as today’s Gospel teaches us, our job is to show up and to do our best in struggling to move closer to God. Sometimes that takes an enormous effort on our part – especially when the evil one whispers discouragement in our ear. We must not give in to this discouragement… we must patiently and persistently stand in the presence of God, making our effort to draw near to Him. St Evagrios writes: ‘Persevere with patience in your prayer, and repulse the cares and doubts that arise within you.’
We do our part, but we must always remember and always trust that it is the Lord Who bestows the healing. This is a grace and a gift given to the repentant heart that reaches out in faith. We must always be checking that disposition of our heart… let it become as habitual as checking your watch or your cell phone. Gaze upon your heart and ask yourself: ‘What is the disposition of my heart? Is it pointing toward God and longing for Him? Or have I lost that focus?’ Make the adjustment to reset that disposition of heart and then move forward in trust and in love.
Are you failing in your spiritual struggles? Are you paralyzed in your efforts to draw closer to God? Take courage my brothers and sisters in Christ and look upon the example that is set before us in today’s Gospel!...
St Silouan of Mt Athos said: ‘Do not be cast down over the struggle - the Lord loves a brave warrior. The Lord loves the soul that is valiant.’
Take courage… God hears our prayers. He hears each sigh and moaning of our heart. If we fall we must simply get up again and move forward. Not looking back and not being shocked and derailed by our failures. We place our trust and our hope in God and we put our back to the plow of moving forward in love and humility.
‘...And so’, says our holy father St Basil the Great, ‘let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God.’