The Sunday of the Paralytic
John 5:1-15 & Acts 9:32-42
Today is the fourth Sunday after Pascha – on this day is appointed the Gospel reading of the healing of the paralytic who had suffered for thirty-eight long years and we also hear from the Acts of the Apostles of the healing of the paralyzed man named Aeneas and of Peter’s wondrous raising of Tabitha from the dead.
The Gospel account of the paralytic man who laid by the pool in hope that he might be submerged in the healing waters is a tremendous lesson in faith and patience and persistence. Day after day, he was there by the pool and day after day he suffered the disappointment of someone else getting into the waters before he could. So many of those others around the pool had friends and relatives there to assist them in getting into the waters when they were stirred up by the angel of the Lord. What chance did a paralyzed man have of being the first into the waters?
Yet, his persistence and faith continued to bring him to the pool and it was there that he was blessed to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ. Had the paralyzed man given up in frustration over the impossibility of his situation, he would never have been there when our Lord passed by… and he would then have missed the opportunity for his cure.
What a lesson for us! We all suffer from persistent sins which paralyze us spiritually. It is a very common thing for me to hear someone coming to confession admitting their great frustration and embarrassment that they must once again come with the exact same list of sins. It IS frustrating and it IS embarrassing! But, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must look to the example of the paralytic in today’s Gospel to see how he never gave up. He had faith and hope and love - and these three great virtues propelled him to patiently and persistently keep showing up at the source of healing. We must do the same!
St Evagrios writes: ‘Persevere with patience in your prayer and repulse the cares and doubts that arise within you.’ And St Silouan of Mt Athos tells us: ‘Do not be cast down over the struggle - the Lord loves a brave warrior. The Lord loves the soul that is valiant.’
Are you failing in your spiritual struggles? Are you paralyzed in your efforts to draw closer to God? Take courage my brothers and sisters in Christ, and look upon the example that is set before us in today’s Gospel - we must have both patience and persistence!
Let’s take a look now at the scene set before us in the Epistle reading for this day. Today’s Epistle tells us how the Apostle Peter met a man named Aeneas who had been paralyzed and bedridden for over eight years. Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole, arise and make thy bed.’ And Aeneas was immediately healed. We then hear of how Peter was brought to the deathbed of a young girl named Tabitha. We read that, ‘Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning to the body said, ‘Tabitha, arise’. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.’
I would like to point out three things for us to think about from today’s Gospel and Epistle readings. First, we see the source of Grace which comes from God. Second, we see the conditions of Grace which are a loving heart of compassion and service. And third, we see the continuity of Grace – an unbroken inheritance given by God and handed down from Christ to Apostle and from generation to generation, never leaving us orphaned.
When our Lord Jesus Christ healed the sick and the paralyzed, He did so by the power of His Godhood. Jesus Christ, as the second Person of the Holy Trinity, as the Source of Grace and healing, performed His miracles through that Grace which He possessed and poured forth from the abundant goodness of His Being. When we read of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, we witness Apostle Peter boldly saying, ‘Jesus Christ maketh thee whole.’ The healing power of Grace was not something which came from Peter, but he simply acted as the steward and channel of that Grace which had its source in God. This is the first point – the source and power of Grace and all goodness comes from God. If we manifest any goodness, any healing, any love – we must give God the glory, for this grace of goodness, healing and love find their source in Him.
Secondly, we mentioned that there were certain conditions in which this life-giving Grace of God was made manifest. As our Lord passed by the man at the pool of Bethesda, He was moved with compassion for the sick man’s condition and his persistence and patience. As Apostle Peter came into the towns of Lydda and Joppa, he was responding to the sorrow and petitions of those who loved Aeneas and Tabitha. This healing and life-giving Grace of God was made manifest through the compassionate love of God, and of God’s disciples, for their fellow men. As the Psalmist proclaims, ‘A broken and humbled heart, God will not despise.’ It was those dear souls that had their arms outstretched to God that were able to experience His healing touch.
Third, we must rejoice and be greatly encouraged to see that our Lord did not leave us orphaned when His earthly ministry was accomplished and He ascended into heaven. As He promised, He sent us the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Treasury of Good Gifts and Giver of Life. The story of the Power and Grace of God by no means concludes with the Gospels, but continues with the Acts of the Apostles, as we see in today’s reading. And this unbroken chain of Grace and sanctity extends throughout the years and centuries of Christian history. The lives of the saints throughout each century are a living testament and continuation of the Gospel, of the work of Christ among His people.
May God continue to bless us with His Grace and may we always recognize and glorify Him as the source of all goodness. May we call upon that Grace with humble hearts and radiate that goodness through compassionate love. And may we cherish and uphold that inheritance of Grace passed from generation to generation in the saving enclosure of His Church.