The Paralytic and his four Friends

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Paralytic and his four faithful Friends
2nd Sunday in Great Lent
28 February, 2010
Hebrews 1:10-2:3 ; Mark 2:1-12


[This audio file has been edited since audio and written styles are not the same but very different ways of communication.]

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

I am always deeply impressed by this pericope from the Gospel, and I have been since my childhood. These four men are bringing their friend to Christ because they are certain that our Saviour can help him. They love their friend, and they are really determined to help this man to get to the Lord. However, the house is so jammed with people that no-one can get in. What do they do ? As a child, being a Canadian, I could never understand what was going on because they opened the roof. From my perspective as a child, I could not understand, but from a Middle-Eastern perspective, housing construction is different. In all likelihood, that roof was covered with tiles. Although it is not easy to take them out, it is not the same as pulling off shingles and ripping wood off (or worse).

Somehow they dismantled the roof above the Saviour. They dragged their friend up onto the roof, and let him down on his stretcher in front of the Lord. This is determination. It is also really dramatic. These persons did this because they were so confident that the Lord could do something for their friend. They had obviously had experience of what happens when the Lord is with people, and of course that was the reason that the whole house was so jammed with people that no-one could get in. The Lord, in His love, always and everywhere, was and is putting things in their correct order. Everywhere He has been going, He has been healing people and delivering them from their illnesses. He has been delivering them also from the chains of sin. When these persons let down their friend before the Lord, He immediately addresses the situation by saying that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven. This immediately produces a controversy in the minds of the Pharisees who say in their hearts, as it were : “How can You, a human being, be forgiving sins ? This is really a blasphemous statement. Only God can forgive sin”. To show very clearly Who He is, our Saviour says to the man : “‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house’”. He does just that. He takes up the stretcher on which he was lying, and he walks away.

Human beings are no different 2,000 years later. Were we to be physically present on that occasion, we would be just as amazed and covered with confusion. However, the Lord is showing very clearly today to them and to us Who He is : the Lord who releases us from our sins. He is not necessarily saying that this paralytic was paralysed because of sins (his sins or anyone else’s in particular). The Lord is making a very clear point that He has the authority to forgive sins. He has this authority because He is the Son of God and the Son of Man that has been prophesied to come. He is the Messiah.

The last words of the Gospel reading today have always been a bit amusing to me. Human beings being human beings, they are awfully slow. When they see something right in front of their noses (the Pharisees especially), then logically, they should understand what they have just seen. Instead, however, they just shake their heads, and they say, as it were : “Well, we never saw anything like this before”. From their lips does not come the appropriate confession : “You are the Christ, the Messiah”. They are too caught up in their heads, in their minds, and in their expectations of what the Messiah must be like. They had thought that this Person is obviously a great man of some sort, but He does not fit the mould of what they are expecting. He does not fit their expectations, so in their minds, He cannot be the Messiah. Human beings are like this. We often behave as if we were not sane. Too often, we are too stubborn, and we are too caught up in ourselves to let the Lord work amongst us, and to let Him be free amongst us.

The Lord loves us. The Lord is Who He says that He is. The Lord is the Giver of life, the One who sets us free from our sins. He gives us a very strong object lesson today in how He really does forgive us our sins. He has the authority to forgive us our sins. Just as this man today is set free from His paralysis because of the forgiveness of sins, so you and I are set free from our paralyses (even though they are not physical) through the forgiveness of our sins which the Saviour is constantly offering to us. Let us not be like those persons who hear and see our Lord today. Instead, with the apostles, let us see Who He is, and let us say to Him in response to today’s wonder : “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Through the prayers of the Mother of God, let us ask Him to enable us to live in accordance with this confession so that when we see Him working in our lives, we will be able to give glory to Him for His love and His intimate care for us.

May we have the confidence in our intercessions to be like those four men who carried their friend before the Lord. We cannot physically take someone before the Lord, but we can invite someone to come to the Temple, and bring him or her before the Lord, allowing the Lord to touch that person through sacramental Grace, or through unction, confession or receiving Holy Communion. The Lord has given us any number of ways to convey the Grace of His love and the release from the chains of slavery that sins bind us with. Let us have the confidence of these four men today to bring our friends, our loved ones before the Lord, knowing that He does love our friends and our loved ones as He loves this paralysed man today. He wishes to release us and our friends as He releases this paralysed man just now.

Let us offer each other to the Lord with this confidence that in whatever way we need releasing, He will release us, set us free, keep us free, and keep us on His path, His way, His way of joy, His way of peace and His way of harmony. Let us have confidence that, passing the rest of our days in this peace and joy, we will be able to come in His love to the Kingdom, and be able to glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the all-holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.