And getting into a boat He crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to Him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith He said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He then said to the paralytic—“Rise, take up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Matthew 9:1-8 (Gospel from the Sixth Sunday of Matthew)
A fair number of people in the world are paralyzed. Some are paralyzed and unable to move certain parts of their bodies because of an accident. Some are paralyzed due to a stroke or other neurological injury. Paralysis of any kind is devastating. Because paralysis inhibits freedom of movement. And lacking freedom of movement makes it a challenge to enjoy a full life, not that this is impossible, just that it is more difficult.
However, an even greater number of people are paralyzed in other ways. Some are paralyzed by poverty. Others are paralyzed by fear. And still others are paralyzed with hopelessness, sadness, doubt and many other things.
Doctors treat patients who have paralysis with therapies designed to help them increase their range of motion.
Other types of “paralysis” can be cured by people who are not necessarily doctors. For instance, for the one who is paralyzed by poverty, this is healed through generosity. When we give to those who are in need, we help to treat this illness.
We know that “perfect love casts out all fear.” (I John 4:18) This means that for the one paralyzed by fear, this is healed through God’s love, given to us by God Himself and manifested with us by those who love us. The love of other people helps to cure fears.
When one is paralyzed with hopelessness, sadness, doubt, etc. the cause often is a spiritual cause. Because for the devout and committed Christian, while he or she might be sad, there is never the despondency that accompanies the feeling of hopelessness. Because through the storms of life, when one surrenders to the will of God, he or she is shown some form of healing and reassurance that can only come from God. One can achieve all kinds of material “success” (or any of the many kinds of circumstances society considers successful) and still feels incomplete and unsure. When one surrenders his or her heart and asks God to use his or her heart as His instrument, this is when one is able to help others and in turn, will help himself. For God favors the one who works to take care and comfort those who are lonely despondent.
Without Christ, one is truly paralyzed, because as the glass from the hourglass of our lives empties, so does any sense of hope, or heaven, or salvation. With Christ, on the other hand, there is no need to ever feel despondent or hopeless.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus healed a man who was a paralytic. This man was not only paralyzed in his body but also paralyzed in his spirit. So, Jesus first told the man “Take heart, my son, you sins are forgiven.” (Mark 9: 2) Because what good is a healthy body if that body holds an unhealthy and wounded Spirit. Jesus knew that the man was paralyzed in his heart and so before He restored the man’s body to health, He healed his wounded spirit.
The reaction of the scribes was not reverence for Christ’s power not joy for the man who was finally healed. Instead they accused Christ of blasphemy. Jesus, knowing the evil intentions in their hearts then also heals the man, don’t so by His word alone. Those who witness the miracle were overcome with fear, but still praised God. Unlike the people who sent Christ away from their town, after he cured a demoniac while sending the demon into swine, the people who witnessed today’s Gospel were joyful that it had come at the hands of Jesus. Likewise, we also should rejoice in the healings that Christ provides for us and for others.
Let us honor the Cross of the Lord with solemn praise, and His holy entombment extol with sacred hymns, and His Rising from the dead supremely glorify; for He despoiled the realm of death and the devil’s might, for He is God; then He resurrected the dead from the graves together, and made the light to dawn on those in hell. (First Resurrectional Kathisma, Plagal 1st Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
In our lives, it is very important for us to seek not only physical healing for our wounds but spiritual healing for our souls. For without Christ, we are truly paralyzed.
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
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