The Prelate’s Sermon August 8, 2021
Today, on the fourth Sunday of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel reading is from Saint Mark chapter 2:1-12. The Evangelist tells us that Jesus was preaching in Capernaum in a home that was overwhelmingly crowded. Four people tried to enter into the house, carrying a paralyzed man on a stretcher. When they saw that they had no access to Jesus through the house, they dared to break open a hole in the roof and lowered the stretcher with the paralytic lying upon it. Jesus, seeing their faith, addresses the paralytic and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Some of the scribes who were present and heard this questioned in their heart whether this was blasphemy, since they believe that only God can forgive sins. Jesus, perceiving in His spirit their attitude, asks them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” Jesus says to the paralytic to get up, to walk and go home. And the paralytic in front of all stood up and took the mat and went. The assembly in the house was amazed at this and they glorified God.
This passage, beyond its miracle dimension, has a unique value and message in our relationship with God. Let us first dissect this passage, before extracting a few positive thoughts.
- The more we read the variety of the miracles, the more we are fascinated with the richness of Divine ways countering with our needs. In most cases we witness the fact that Jesus asks the second party what he/she wants, or does the person believe that He can do/fulfill their wish? In this case, Jesus praises the Faith, the Hope, and the Love of those who were carrying the paralytic, and accordingly fulfills their expectation. Indeed, believing that Jesus will heal the sick, they didn’t only carry and bring him where the Physician par excellence was, but they didn’t give up their hope when they were confronted with the barrier of the crowd surrounding Him. Against all odds they did something which amazed the Lord who by witnessing their love in action did something far beyond their understanding, by forgiving the sins of the paralytic.
- Most probably those who were carrying the paralytic were perplexed. Their expectation was not met, for they didn’t realize what was granted. Yet, there were others who were puzzled at this most unusual offer, which was interpreted as a blasphemy. Amid this confrontation, the Divine nature of Christ is revealed explicitly.
- Jesus God by reading the mind of those who were questioning His authority, indirectly answered them and exposed His Divine identity. Saint John in the introit of his Gospels deplores the fact that “the Word came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept Him” (Jn 1:11). The scribes who knew by heart the Scriptures, that “God searches the hearts” (1 Chron 29:17); “the Lord knows the thoughts of man” (Ps 94:11), lo! While experiencing the presence of God who was reading their thoughts, blindly were ascribing Him as a blasphemer.
- Meanwhile, the carriers of the mattress were totally embarrassed for being the cause of this “futile” dispute and unpleasant situation, which was totally out of their immediate intention. Nevertheless, their sacrifice was fully justified when by the command of Jesus the paralytic in front of all stood up and took the mat and left, while everyone was astounded glorifying the Lord.
This healing scene with its differences has valuable similarities with other healings.
1.God looks for our cooperation and magnifies our humble effort. As He took the few loaves and fishes and fed a multitude of five thousand, likewise God healed the paralytic not only physically but by forgiving his sins, He showered upon him a myriad of blessings.
- God appreciates our concerns for others. As upon the request of the centurion Jesus healed his servant lying sick at home, likewise our outpouring love for others is highly considered by the Heavenly Physician.
- In all generations, just like the mattress carriers, there are simple-minded people whose hearts, like a compass, are directed to God with full trust. Besides them, unfortunately there are people like Herod (Mt 2:8), the Scribes and others who pay lip service to the Lord but never experience His joy in their hearts, as Jeremiah the prophet states, “You are near in their mouths yet far from their hearts’ (Jer 12:3). Those who firmly commit themselves to God and never yield to obstacles surely enjoy His Providential care.
Therefore, let us wholeheartedly and diligently present our deficiencies to the Heavenly Healer who “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow” (Heb 4:12), and renew us physically, intellectually and spiritually, in order to praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.