THE SECOND SUNDAY OF GREAT LENT
Dear beloved, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today on the 26th day of March, the year 2000 we have come to the beginning of the second week of Lent. Today we are all gathered together to honour three separate occasions, a tri-hypostatic commemoration.
The first occasion is the Sunday of the Paralytic, which actually commemorates the twofold miracle of forgiveness and healing performed by our Lord on a certain paralysed man. It is the commemoration of the power of God working through Jesus Christ.
We may look upon the paralytic as a messenger of God, an imperfect human messenger. Nevertheless he was made complete by the power of God, and was sent home by our Lord to be a living and walking message of hope to his family and friends.
The second occasion is the commemoration of a heavenly body, a messenger of good news, the Archangel of our Lord. His name is Gabriel which in Hebrew translates as "the power" or "might of God".
Third and last (yet not least of all) is the commemoration of a Holy messenger — St. Gregory Palamas. Saint Gregory was a mere mortal filled by the wisdom and power of God. He was a vigilant contestant of the Orthodox faith, trying to keep Orthodox Christianity unpolluted by heretical doctrines. A proclaimer of the reality of the powers and energies of our God and the uncreated light which our Lord revealed at Mount Tabor.
From these three different types of mediators or messengers, we observe that God works in many different and mysterious ways. He works through His angels, he works through His Apostles and Saints — but he may also choose to work through his sinful, imperfect servants. In other words God may also work through any of us here today.
How does God work through us you may ask? We are all sinners, we are all imperfect, we are all unworthy.
Yes indeed this is true we are all unworthy, but God who has eyes everywhere can see through and beyond our sins and can penetrate our hearts.
God can also see through our false piety our empty prayers and pietistic tears. He alone knows our potential our true intentions, whether they are good or bad. He alone knows if our faith is true, or false.
Ultimately — we are all unworthy, but by the grace and power of God we may become counted worthy to serve our God.
The Church proclaims that those whom God loves He tests and chastises in order to strengthen them spiritually. The Old Testament is filled with such examples, the prime example being the chastisement of the faithful and righteous Job.
In the New Testament Saint Paul is perhaps the prime example, who proclaims that he is the first of all sinners. He initially persecuted the Church, yet God chose Him, God knew that deep inside Saint Paul was the potential to protect and proclaim the truth to all the Nations. A later example? Saint Mary of Egypt, initially she was a prostitute but was chosen by God nevertheless to become a Saint of our Church.
Today we celebrate a similar occasion where our Lord recognised and discerned the heart of the sinful paralytic. In conjunction, He also saw the faith and heard the wishes of the four loyal friends who carried the afflicted man. And with one Word, He forgave the sins of the paralytic, and with another Word, He healed him of his bodily paralysis.
But let us pause for one moment, and let us think; how is it possible that a mere mortal can forgive the sins of another mere mortal? Surely it is only God who has such authority, It is His power alone which can forgive our sins. Yes indeed God alone has this power, but they failed to realise who exactly Jesus was. This is exactly what the devil wanted the people following Jesus to believe. But Jesus perceived the deception in the hearts of the scribes, who reasoned against His actions. So Jesus revealed His true power to the unbelievers. He performed a second miracle; He made the paralytic walk. Jesus proclaims that this was done in order for them to "know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10).
Jesus the Son of Man was the righteous judge foretold by the book of Daniel the prophet. But what does the title Son of Man mean? It does not mean what most of us think it means today; that he was born by a human. Son of Man in Hebrew Ben Iysh means that He is the Son of the image and likeness of God. Son of Man in Hebrew means one that has God's authority and God's power yet appears to be human in every way.
The wise men the scribes (or as they are called today) the theologians of Jesus time knew very well that only God could do what this seemingly simple man could do. But they were deceived by their self-righteousness and pride. Satan had put up a wall against their reasoning and deceived them to think that Jesus was a blasphemer.
They could not, they dared not, open their subjective minds and look upon Jesus Christ's face to see his righteousness, his truthfulness, the true light shining from within. Instead they were scared and lacked true faith and so plotted against Him.
Let us now look more closely at this twofold miracle. One notices that not only was this paralysed man forgiven and made to walk after being healed by the power of God, he was also told by Jesus to take up his bed and go home. To lift up his bed after so many years of having lost all power to the muscles of his limbs. He was physically weak, however his faith together with the faith of his four companions and friends, who lowered him down through the roof, all contributed to this very special miracle recorded in Mark's Gospel today.
If we are saved in the last days, my brothers and sisters, it will be in Christ. If we are granted God's mercy and forgiveness it will not only be our soul which will be saved, it will also have to be our body as well. Our body must be pure so that our soul may also be pure, but more importantly our soul must be pure in order for our body to be pure. If we defile our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, then what hope do we have of God saving our souls?
We observe then in this particular order — that sin defiles the body and that the defiled body harms the soul. We observe that Jesus Christ being pure and sinless works in the opposite way — He first cleansed the soul of the paralytic, and then He cured and revitalised the body.
This was done to show that neither fasting nor praying nor even righteous acts can forgive our sins if we do not first repent. It is almost futile to fast and pray and do all manner of righteous acts if we do not first go to confess our sins and reject our old selves in order for the power of God to empower and revitalise our degenerating limbs and souls.
Only God knows our sins and so can heal both our souls and our bodies. Holy Scripture tells us that our body will be resurrected together with our soul and will be transformed by the grace of God into a spiritual body on the day of the resurrection of the dead.
Today Saint Mark implores us to believe in the saving power of God working in this world. Today Saint Mark reminds us to believe and trust in the power of God working through His messengers, whether human, divine or angelic. Most of all my brethren, the central message we must remember today is to pray for one another and carry each others burdens as these four men did for this man. If we would just do this for each other, then assuredly all of us gathered here would be saved. And remember that it is never too late to be healed, it is never too late to repent. Arise then my beloved brethren so that we may take up our Cross daily no matter how heavy it is and follow Christ. And may God grant us all perfect health to our souls and our bodies.
by Kosmas Damianides
Greek Orthodox Parish of St Nektarios, Perth