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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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. Mark 2: 1-4 (Gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent)
Good morning Prayer Team!
In the Gospel reading on the second Sunday of Lent, we read about Jesus healing a Paralytic. And while it is Jesus who performed the miracle and did the healing, there were other people who were important and necessary in order for the miracle to happen—the four friends of the Paralytic. The four friends carried the Paralytic to where Jesus was. Their friend was paralyzed. He couldn’t get to Jesus by himself. When they came to the house where Jesus was, they couldn’t get into the house because there were so many people in the house. So they got creative. They hoisted their friend up to the roof—THAT must have been quite an accomplishment in itself. Then they cut a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down to Jesus, and Jesus healed him.
One of the things we learn from this story is the importance of having friends and the importance of being a good friend. Our journey to Christ is helped by our friends. (Sadly, it can also be hurt by them.) What are characteristics of a good friend? Good friends are consistent and reliable, they are always our friends, the friendship does not just depend on the situation. Friends are fun and honest, friends know how to keep a confidence and secret. Friends are forgiving, they have our best interests in mind. They are both good listeners and good advisors. Good friends have good morals and values and encourage us to stay out of trouble.
It is not only important to have good friends, but good Christian friends. Christian friends pray for one another. They encourage us to worship. When our faith is shaken, as happens to all of us at least occasionally, they help to build up our faith again. Christian friends hold us accountable, discourage non-Christian behaviors, and encourage Christian behavior.
All of us need good friends. And all of us need to be good friends to others. It is important that each of us learn how to listen, how to keep a confidence, how to encourage without being overly critical, and learn when to give advice and when we should just listen.
God created us to crave “community.” We are social beings by nature. There is a saying that “one Christian is no Christian,” and that “no Christian is an island.” Part of our work as Christians is to befriend other Christians so we can encourage them in their Christianity. And even if we are not overtly encouraging others by teaching about Christ, modeling Christian behavior will in itself help to get the message out. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” So, when we are being a good friend, we are letting our lights shine and through good works, we are showing God’s love to others.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 5:1-15, we hear about the healing of another Paralytic. In this instance, the man had been ill for thirty-eight years and had been sitting by the side of a pool that periodically was troubled by an angel who came down and stirred up the water and whoever stepped in first was healed of whatever disease he had. When Jesus saw the man and asked if he wanted to be healed, the man lamented “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is troubled.” (John 5:7) When I reflect on this story, I wonder what was worse for this man, his illness or his loneliness. There are people in this world who are paralyzed, not by physical disease, but by extreme loneliness and isolation. There are many people who feel that “I have no one.” One of our obligations as Christians is to make sure that there is nobody who has no one. We should all seek to befriend those who do not have many friends. So that everyone has a “someone”.
The miracle of the Paralytic would not have been possible without the vigilance and love of four committed friends. The miracle of our salvation, believe it or not, is contingent in part on us having friends who will encourage our faith. Likewise, each of us can play a pivotal role in the salvation of our friends, simply by being a good friend.
To those walking in the darkness of their sins You have shone as light, O Christ, during the season of self-control And revel to us this auspicious day of Your Passion, so that we may cry to You, “Arise, O God, have mercy on us.” (Doxastikon from Orthros of the Second Sunday of Lent, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be a good friend today!
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