The good news today draws on the heavy topic of paralysis. Not just the regrettable bodily variety, but also the all too familiar and yet very tragic soul crushing type that we as humans are accustomed to.
Paralysis, the inability to move and sometimes even to feel, is often in scripture an example for the loss of one’s freedom, resulting from personal trauma caused by sin. This loss of ability removes fundamental freedoms, such as one’s personal agency to act and live as one pleases.
It is as though one were put under a new rule of obedience, a rule which runs counter to our innate desire to be free and fully alive. Such a rule is less like that of the monastic fathers such as those of Sts. Benedict or Pachomius which aimed for saintliness. Rather the rule of paralysis caused by sin, is terror.
We see this spiritual paralysis everywhere. The inability and frustration witnessed each day of what should be a very easy thing is, sadly, too common in human existence. In the words of St. Paul, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”
From the great to the small things, we are often unable or unwilling to leave systems of personal destruction behind. We cleave to them because as numb as they make us feel, it is a familiar numbness, unlike the uncharted waters of a life fully alive in God. There is safety after all in the predictable and boring stream of living our lives lying down on our backs, isn’t there?
Sin Is Effortless
We stand for nothing, oppose nothing, nobody asks much from us. And -- most of all -- we convince ourselves that everything we are not able to accomplish is too hard and not worth the effort anyway. Paralysis from sin is a boon for all the evil plans and machinations of this world, because after all, evil thrives on the inactivity and numbness of supposedly good people.
Despite what we may think, sin takes no effort at all, and that is why sin is inherently terrible. Sin is the great No to life. Or rather the great No to the one who is life.
From jurisdictional divisionism and infighting within the Church of Christ; to the neglect of the needs of others especially the most vulnerable; to the very personal and real torment of those empty wells we return to each day to numb the difficulties of life. We see the problem, but we also complicate the solution.
Like the Scribes in today’s gospel, we seek to justify our lack of participation in what is right and worthy, by justifying our disinterest in praising what is right. Rather than marvel and give God praise for raising a paralyzed man to his feet, the scribes remain stiff themselves without words, and likely without any movement at all. As stiff and as delicate as their prim robes and vestiture.
So stiff, that it must have looked as though their very robes would shatter if anyone were to even gently touch them.
While the world rejoiced as this invitation to life was granted to this faithful paralyzed man, there they remained -- living as though paralyzed. Because they did not want to share in the joy of Jesus’ ministry. Not then and likely not ever. Locked out of life, but not by some higher authority, no -- sadder still -- by their own hardness of hearts.
Raise the Paralyzed
Woe to us when we become so deadened by the sins visited upon us that we give in and allow ourselves to be destroyed. Woe to us when we remain indolent and slow to dispel the darkness, when we ourselves can at the very least kneel and pray. Woe to us when we would sooner choose to push away the mercies of God, than to be visited by them.
Let us not give in to the spirit of indifference, and despondency. The good work which God has begun in us is not yet complete. God desires to only to raise the paralyzed from their beds, He more daringly calls even the dead, back to life!
As you may know, recently a member of our parish, underwent a successful organ transplantation.
And so today he embodies the message of this Gospel reading. As one raised up to new life in Christ he chooses to remain free and fully alive. As the Lord said, “Arise, take up your bed and go…”.
Today he continues the journey of theosis, to live with all the possibilities union with God affords - not needing to be under the yoke of any conclusion or idea which does not give life.
Now that you have been raised up, do not live just for yourself, but as Christ speaks today of having authority, discipline yourself to imitate that very same authority. Christ’s authority is not one of power or personal gain, but of sacrificial servitude: even the servitude of the cross.
Glory be to God forever.
--Fr. Paul Tadros