6th Sunday after Pentecost – Orthodox Homily on Healing

A beautiful miracle has taken place in today’s Gospel: we see a paralyzed man who cannot walk on his own, healed of his paralysis.  Christ God, the Logos (Word) of God, through whom all things were made, whose very image and likeness is imprinted on the souls of every human being, knew thisman and loved thisman with a perfect love even before he was presented to Him.The Psalmist David says regarding this foreknowledge of God and our identity in Him, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 138 LXX).  Every life, every soul, is precious to God. Physical and spiritual brokenness is not how God created us and is, rather, a sign of mankind’s choice to reject God from the beginning and the life that is only in Him.  

Evidence of this desire on behalf of God to restore, to reconcile, to heal is seen in this man’s healing.  He who gave this man his first heart-beat in his mother’s womb is the same One who has healed him of his infirmity.  The paralytic was brought to His Creator and He received healing and restoration from Him.  He was given a new beginning to live to the glory of God.  

Every miracle is a testimony to the truth of God, the truth that is God; Every miracle points us to the restoration of the human race, the intervention of the Kingdom of God and His redemption and salvation of this fallen world, of all that’s corrupted by our sad cooperation with evil and sin.  

Every miracle reminds us of God’s triumphant resurrection from the dead, His harrowing of Hades, His glorious ascension, and His victorious and final Second Coming when all that Christ has assumed, will be healed and restored, when all those who’ve joined the newrace of Adam in Christ, will be reunited with their resurrected bodies and judged.  

In this way, miracles are a sign of the “eschaton,” that is, the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God at Christ’s Second Coming.  The healing of the paralytic alludes to all these works and promises of God on our behalf, where those being saved will join the ranks of heaven in God’s near presence where “sighing and sorrow shall flee away,” as Isaiah prophesies (Is. 51:11).  

But a greater miracle than the healing from paralysis is at work here: We read that when Jesus saw the faith of those who had brought the paralytic to him, He instantly healed the man of his paralysis?  No!  Instead, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sinsare forgiven you.” This wasn’t what some were expecting.  

Christ clearly teaches us here the priority of our eternal souls over that of our decaying bodies.  This is a crude way to put it and in no way meant to belie the value of our bodies, which, together with our souls, God has made and declared as “good.”  No, I say this to underscore the fact that while our bodies will, like the earth, “all wear out like a garment,” (Isaiah 51:6), our souls are eternal.  And yet, how much time do we spend on the priorities of this world over the needs of our souls?  It’s in this context of understanding sin and its sad consequences, on our being enslaved to the world and all that’s passing away, that Christ addresses the ultimate need of the paralytic.  Yes, he needs his legs, but more importantly, the paralytic needs to be purified, forgiven—He needs God.  More important than the healing of his legs is the healing of his soul.  

By forgiving the sins of the man, Christ clearly declares Himself to be God for, as the scribes rightly understood, “who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk. 2:7; Lk. 5:21)  Exactly! Their sinful hearts could not comprehend that the God who spoke creation into being through His Word, would Himself enter into that human nature as Emmanuel (God with us), as the prophets foretold, to restore that nature and make a path to the Kingdom of God for His beloved children, the pinnacle of His creation, with whom He so mercifully and lovingly desires communion.   

The Scribes instantly charge blasphemy, refusing to acknowledge that God would love us to such an extent that He would even condescend to become incarnate to defeat the endless cycle of sin and death enslaving the world since its beginning, blatantly ignoring the prophets.  To deepen the faith of all those assembled and silence the actual blasphemers, Christ does two things to reveal Himself as God: first, He tells them what they’re thinking, saying, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, Arise and walk?’  Then, second, He says, “that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…” and then and only then, Christ say to the man, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”  The man arose on his own two feet, glorifying God.  Such a great miracle!

Before our own baptism into Christ and the possibility of the renewal of that baptism through Sacramental Confession, we too are paralyzed by sin.  Even in the life of an Orthodox Christian who is part of the new creation, a beloved child of the eschaton, this world and its confusion may take hold of the unwary soul and paralyze it with addictions, habitual sins, forgetfulness of God. 

Sadly, sin can also paralyze us from witnessing to the truth of Christ.  How easy it is to give into pride and become cowardly and selfish when it comes to sharing and living out Christ’s truth and the salvation found in His holy Church with those around us. Many fear man more than God.

In order for Christ to heal ourinfirmities, ourweaknesses, oursin-sickness, the world—and all our temporal, passing, dying pursuits—must cease to be center focus, so that He who is Life can become our true life, our true ‘reason for being.’  Then, everything else in our lives finds its true purpose and value with Christ at the center of our identity and our priorities.  

Those beset by any passions, sins, habits, or misplaced priorities, hear the words of our Lord this day, “Arise, take up your bed, and go unto your house.”  With the Lord there is forgiveness and newness of life.  Repent and confess. All things are possible with God! All of us can keep growing in faith IF we are willing to make Christ God the priority too, growing in the knowledge and love of Him.  Today’s Gospel is sometimes referred to in the Church as “the Paralytic Restored.”  How appropriate!  The promise of restoration is here for us as well: The Lord can restore us as well.  Call on Christ, repent, entrust yourself to His grace and mercy, confess Him before all, and cast your weaknesses upon Him. For as St. Paul reminds us, “His grace is sufficient and His strength is perfected in weakness” (II Cor.12:9). 

Fr. Robert Miclean

Holy Archangels Orthodox Church

Sunday, 28 July 2019
The Paralytic from Matthew’s Gospel 6
Epistle:            Romans 12:6-14
Gospel:            Matthew 9:1-8