Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Scriptures of the Triodion
Second Sunday of Great Lent–St. Gregory Palamas
And when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and He was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Mark 2: 1-12 (Gospel of the Second Sunday of Great Lent)
Good morning Prayer Team!
We know from reading the Bible that Jesus did many miracles and healed many people. Many of them were people he “found” in the temple, or sitting by the side of the road. We read of instances where family members asked Christ to come heal one of their loved ones. What makes this healing miracle stand out, to me anyway, is that in this case, the Paralytic who was ultimately healed by Jesus was brought to Him by four friends. We don’t know whether it was the Paralytic who asked the friends to take him to the Lord or whether it was the four friends who suggested it to the Paralytic. What we do know is that the four friends not only brought the man to Jesus for healing, but they had to think creatively of a way to get him to Christ when the house was too crowded for them to enter.
Undaunted, the men decided to remove the roof above Christ and lower the man to Christ so that he could be healed. Because Christ told him to take up his pallet (bed) and walk, we know that the friends also lowered the bed with the man on it. Because they lowered him from the roof, these friends had to get their friend and his bed on the roof of the house. Imagine trying to do this with someone, laying even on a cot, trying to get this person on the roof of your house and not hurting him. And doing it with just four people. That in itself would be a “miracle”.
Bottom line, this man needed Christ to heal him. He wouldn’t have gotten to Christ without the help of these friends. Thus, the friends played a vital role in the healing of a Paralytic.
In a nutshell, this is how Christianity works. We are saved by God and healed by Him but this takes place in the context of a Christian community. This is why there is a saying “one Christian is no Christian,” because Christians exist in relationship to other Christians. We need one another in order to get to Christ.
So, what is it we need from friends? The thing we need most is encouragement, not just encouragement in life, but specifically encouragement to be a Christian. In the case of the Paralytic, he needed tangible assistance. But he also needed encouragement. Because either he approached his friends about going to Christ and they encouraged him, or they came to him initially and encouraged him to go. A good friend is there to offer tangible support but also the intangible things. When is the last time you prayed with a friend? Or lent a sympathetic ear? Or a voice of reassurance? How about voicing gratitude for a friendship? Or serving a friend, doing something totally self-less in order to help someone else?
We need friendship, but we also need spiritual friendship. We need people to encourage us to pray, worship, and behave. We need people to hold us accountable. And sometimes we need people to tell us the good news of God again, when we are going through a hard time. Everyone goes through periods where God feels like He is far away. Spiritual friends help friends to keep God front and center. When one is falling down, the other picks them up with encouragement. I can’t stress enough the need for good friends and how important it is to be a good friend. Because, as this miracle shows, friends are essential in the salvation equation. Because sometimes it is the encouragement of friends that gets us to Christ, who provides healing in this life and salvation for eternal life.
To those walking in the darkness of their sins, You have shone as light, O Christ, during the season of self-control. And reveal to us the auspicious day of Your Passion, so that we may cry to You, “Arise, O God, have mercy on us. (Doxastikon of Orthros, Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be a good friend!
Photo Credit: Catholic.org
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