2nd Sunday in Great Lent (Saint Gregory Palamas)

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
There is Freedom and Life in Forgiveness
(Saint Gregory Palamas)
2nd Sunday in Great Lent
23 March, 2008
Hebrews 1:10-2:3 ; Mark 2:1-12

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel reading which we heard today about the healing of the paralytic is a Gospel reading that has affected me ever since my childhood. I could not imagine (as a Canadian, of course) how they could be taking apart the roof. Why would they take apart the roof, and then let this man in that way ? Of course, our roofs are not like Palestinian roofs. Now that I am older, I understand that it could be done. It would not be such a catastrophe to open the roof in Palestine.

If you open the roof here in Canada, you are going to let in the rain and the snow, and it is going to cost a lot of money to repair. However, in Palestine and in Mediterranean parts of the world where the roofs are made out of clay tiles, those clay tiles are very moveable. All you have to do is take those tiles away, pile them up somewhere, and you have a big space. You can let a man who is paralysed down through the opening of the roof to where Jesus was sitting. (I am glad that I understand that now, and I thought that I would tell you younger ones because I am sure most of you would have the same sort of question in your minds. How could you open a roof ?)

In the Gospel reading yesterday, just before this episode of the healing of the paralytic, Jesus was going out into all the parts of the countryside, and teaching everywhere out in the country because it was hard for Him in the town (see Mark 1:38, 39). People were crowding in on Him, and pressing close to Him, trying to hold on to Him. He still had to go and preach, teach and heal elsewhere, too. Now He has come back to Capernaum, and He is in a house, just as He was before. Just as before, it is so crowded that there is no room to move inside, and there are people outside as well. This man (that four men are trying to bring to Jesus) could not be brought into the house because it is so crammed. So they let him down through the roof. Jesus says to the man : “'Son, Your sins are forgiven'”. Of course, that causes a stir. For the people who were circumcised, that was a blasphemous thing to say. Therefore, they are thinking to themselves, in effect : “How can he say such a thing ? He is only a human being”. They tried to make sense of what happened : “'Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this ? Who can forgive sins but God alone ?'” Of course, they did not know what we know about Jesus. He is not simply an average person. He is the Son of God. He also knows exactly what they are thinking.

As always, when Jesus is healing this man (or anyone that comes to Him), and when He says : “'Your sins are forgiven'”, then the person is healed. This man is told to take away with him his pallet and walk home (which he had not been able to do). Of course, paralysis for us in Canada with socialised medicine and everything, is very inconvenient and painful, but there are ways to get around it. We have social and state support. However, in Palestine in those days (and in most parts of the world still to this day), there is no such support. A person who is paralysed, like this man was, has to beg. He has no way to support himself. It is a very, very difficult situation to be in. We are really spoiled in Canada with all the support that we do have. We may not always perceive it, but we actually give to each other because we pay taxes, and the taxes are the source of most of the government support. Furthermore, we actually came to be doing all this (let the truth be known) because Canada had a Christian foundation in the first place. We are paying taxes and helping people who are in need in this way because of our Christian history. Nevertheless, in much of the world such support is not available even now.

Another thing that is important for us to remember is that when Jesus says : “'Your sins are forgiven'”, and this man gets up and walks, for you and for me there is a lesson – and that is that sin, in fact, does paralyse us. When we are living contrary to God’s life-giving will, we are inviting ourselves to be paralysed. Fear, which is one of the prime tools of the devil with us, is one of those paralysing things. We all remember, I am sure, moments in our lives when we have felt paralysed by fear of one sort or another. Fear paralyses us, and sin paralyses us. It makes us incapable of moving and doing what we need to do. It paralyses us from being able to walk in the path of the Lord.

However, our Lord, Himself, who forgave the sins of the paralytic so that he could walk, also forgives your sins and my sins so that we can be healthy. He forgives us so that we can walk and actually more than walk. He forgives us so that we can be constructive, helpful, healthy, life-giving persons. When we are healed from our sin, and from the paralysis of sin, we can begin to be able to be like the apostles and saints in their imitation of Christ. We, as they, can become like Christ.

We, by our prayers, by our example, can be life-giving, too, because our Saviour is shining through us, and He is working through us. He, Himself, is touching other people. He is straightening them out. He is putting them in good order through us (often, even without our having to say anything). This is because we love Him, and His love is active in us. The Lord acts in and through us. He acts everywhere round about us. He acts above and beneath us. Our hearts, when they are not paralysed by sin, by fear, act like this. They enable the Lord to act, and to act strongly as well, amongst those who are around us.

Let us ask the Lord this morning to renew this love in us, the love that He has for His children, the love that brought about the healing of this man today, the love that brought the deliverance of the demon-possessed yesterday (see Mark 1:39), the love that heals broken bodies, broken hearts, broken souls. Let us ask that He refresh us in this love so that He, Himself, may work through us more and more clearly and effectively in this love. In everything that we are, and in everything that we are doing, may our Saviour Jesus Christ be glorified, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.