The Paralytic

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Healing, Life and Love
4th Sunday of Pascha
10 May, 2009
Acts 9:32-42 ; John 5:1-15

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is risen

As we pass through the Paschal time, we seem often to be saying : “Christ is risen” to each other as though we were saying : “Good morning. Nice day, isn’t it ?” This exclamation : “Christ is risen” is the purpose of our being. It is our raison d’être. To be able to say : “Christ is risen”, to proclaim His Resurrection to each other, is part of our spiritual discipline. It is a reflection of the state of our hearts. The discipline is in keeping ourselves ready to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ with some true vigour every time we say it. If we are not saying it very vigourously, then it is a sign that the condition of our heart is waffly, or maybe a little bit soft because we are getting used to saying it or we are somewhat distracted by something else. Therefore, we tend to say : “Christ is risen” as we would say : “How do you do ?” We have to be careful about this. The whole purpose of our existence is rooted in the fiery love of Jesus Christ, the life-giving love of Jesus Christ. If we are going to say : “Christ is risen” to each other as we pass through the Paschal time (and then afterwards at any time), then we should be able immediately to say this exclamation with some strength, and to answer it in joy with the same sort of strength.

Such was the love of Saint Seraphim of Sarov for the Saviour and such was his experience of this love, that at the end of his life he was saying : “Christ is risen” to everyone all the time, every day of the year. He was saying it to everyone, not simply to special, chosen persons. That is a very clear expression of the depth of his experience of the love of Jesus Christ, and how intense this love was in him all the time. By the end of his days, he was never losing sight of the freshness and the power of the love of Jesus Christ.

That love is expressed today in the raising of this paralytic man who lay by the Sheep Pool for 38 years, waiting to be healed. He always had hope, but he was never able to get into the pool in time because he was paralysed. When the angel came and stirred the water, someone else always got in first, as he said to our Saviour. However, our Saviour tells him to get up, take up his pallet and walk. And he does, just like that. Such is the love of Jesus Christ. Afterwards, the man immediately goes into the Temple to give thanks (after having been rebuked by the scribes for carrying his pallet on Saturday). He puts his pallet down, and he goes straight into the Temple to give thanks to God for his healing and for his new life. He is no longer a beggar. He has to find another way to make a living. He has infinitely more possibilities now that he can walk with the strength of a person having all physical faculties intact. Therefore, he is giving thanks to the Lord in the Temple. That is where our Saviour finds him, and reminds him to be very careful not to sin so that something worse would not befall him.

These words, however, do not imply that it was because of any particular sin that he had endured living in paralysis in the first place. However, sin can bring something much worse than physical paralysis. Sin, in itself, can bring spiritual death (as we all understand) because we all have our brushes with that in one way or another in the course of our lives. Such is the love of the Saviour for this man (and also for us) that He is ready always to give us healing and life. This man, who had been a paralytic for such a long time, had nevertheless been giving glory to God in his paralysis. It is important for us to comprehend that he was not merely lying around by this Sheep Pool every day for 38 years hoping he would get healed some day (although that is certainly part of it). Indeed, he had confidence in God’s love for him that the Lord would look after him. It was in his perseverance for 38 years by the Sheep Pool that he was giving glory to God. It is essential that we remember this, ourselves, in the course of the challenges in our lives, because we all face greater and lesser difficulties in our lives. In the course of facing these difficulties, it is important that we give glory to the Lord for everything, and in everything.

To underline the immediacy of the Lord’s love for us, and the consequences of it, in the Epistle reading today, we immediately have the example of the Apostle Peter. He is raising Aeneas from paralysis (in imitation of our Saviour), and in co-operation with our Saviour’s love. To double underline this life-giving love for us, immediately afterwards this apostle is summoned to a near-by town, and in the Name of Jesus Christ, and through the Grace conveyed by the Name he raises Dorcas (Tabitha) from death.

It is necessary that we remember this, and understand that it is not only the apostles who have been given the Grace to do such things. In the past 2,000 years, in the experience of the sacramental life of our Church, we have been experiencing precisely these same things. Through the prayers of the faithful, and through the anointing with Holy Oil, people have been healed from multitudes of different sorts of diseases, and they have even been raised from the dead. It is not only the apostles who did it. This is happening in our day, even. For instance, how many times (in fact, probably every day) is it the case that people go to the icon of the Mother of God in Sayednaya Monastery in Syria asking for the blessing to have a child when they cannot have a child. Even Islamic people go to her in Sayednaya to ask for this, and God gives to them. In Moscow last week, I met a classmate of mine from a long time ago. He and his wife had been trying to have a child for a long time, and the doctor said it was not likely. He is a professor at one of the universities in Moscow. He and his wife went to the Feodorovskaya icon of the Mother of God. Now they have a seven-year-old daughter.

The Lord’s love is with us, and His intimate care for us is always with us. When I was travelling with the Metropolitan, I found it to be a very high-speed sort of travelling, and we covered a lot of territory. We managed to go to the relics of Saint Matrona of Moscow in the Pokrovsky Monastery. Everyday there is a very long line-up of people there waiting to venerate her relics. On an average day, a person has to wait at least an hour (maybe two), and on her feast-day one might as well line up all day. The nuns were saying to us that there is not a day that passes by when someone does not receive a blessing through the prayers of Saint Matrona. There is not a day passing without the Lord acting through her intercessions in the life of someone who has passed by her relics. In other words, many, many healings occur. In Moscow, the monastery where the relics of Saint Matrona are resting is not by far the only place people go. There are many places where the Lord in His mercy is pouring out His love through the intercessions of various saints, through wonder-working icons of the Mother of God or other saints. The Lord is with us.

The Lord is with us here, too, in Canada. It is true that in Canada we have a harder time of it in many ways as Orthodox Christians, and our life is often considered to be a spiritual desert in comparison with countries in eastern Europe. That is mostly because we are so few Orthodox Christians, and we are so separated by time and space in this giant country. This is the way things are. However, regardless of all this, the Lord is with us, and He is pouring out His love on us. He is healing our diseases. There are people in this parish who have been touched by the Lord in this way. The Lord is with us, and it is important that we keep His love and His faithfulness to us in the front of our consciousness at all times, so that, if possible we may be able to say with great joy at all times in our lives, just as Saint Seraphim did : “Christ is risen”.