Beloved brethren, in today's reading from Holy Gospel, Our Lord Jesus Christ heals a paralyzed man who was brought to Him by four of his friends.
Our Lord was staying in Capernaum, in the house of St. Peter, and there was such a great crowd of people who had come to hear His preaching, that the four men could not get through the crowd to carry their friend through the door. They were very determined, however - this obstacle did not stop them. They carried their sick friend up onto the roof of the house, tore away a part of the roof, and then let the man on his pallet down into the house. The Lord Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, "Child, thy sins be forgiven thee." The Pharisees and scribes attacked Christ, saying that He blasphemed, for by claiming to have the power to forgive sins, He was claiming to be God, for God alone can forgive sins. But the Lord replied, "What is easier, to heal the body or to forgive sins?" - In other words, "If by a word I can raise up this man's body, I can also heal his soul - I can forgive sins." He told the man, "Get up, pick up your bed, and go home." The man immediately got up and walked away in front of everyone, and the crowd glorified God, saying that they had never seen such a thing.
There are three lessons here: There is the dogmatic truth of the divinity of Christ - that:
We also see here a lesson about the relationship between sin and illness, ultimately between sin and death, which is the final outcome of illness. Sickness and death were not created by God - they are parasites which attack God's creation, which is good. God is not the author of evil: He intended man to live forever in total happiness without any sickness or any shade of unhappiness, but man fell away through sin. Sin, which itself is a parasite on our soul, brought its companion - sickness and death - which are parasites on our body. God does not want us to be sick; He does not want us to die. But He allows illness and death. Indeed, He came to earth as a man and went through death Himself! He uses illness and even death itself to bring us closer to Him, to save us. A faithful Christian will face illness and death itself with faith and hope in the Lord, knowing that the Lord Jesus, the Conqueror of Death, will not abandon us, but He will use our illnesses to cleanse our souls from sin, and He will rescue us from death and grant us eternal life!
Finally, we also see in today's Gospel a lesson about faith: The Lord heals the sick man because of his friends' faith. We see in the Gospel that frequently when Christ heals someone, He says, "Your faith has healed you, " or we read, "The Lord saw their faith." God alone is the Physician of our souls and bodies - we don't heal ourselves, but rather He heals us. But He wants to see our faith, and our healing is actually a cooperation, a synergeia between His divine power and our faith. Also, notice that in this instance it is not the sick man's faith, but his friends' faith, which invites the healing. So too in our lives - sometimes a sick person is suffering spiritually so that his faith has become weak. We need to have faith for his sake; we need to pray very earnestly to Our Lord, saying, "O Lord, though my faith is not great, I do believe that You can heal my friend. Increase his faith and mine, and heal him!" We Orthodox Christians are all one in the Body of Christ - my faith helps you when your faith is weak; your faith helps me when my faith is weak. Let us constantly pray for one another, and we will grow in faith together.
May the All-Merciful Lord, the healer of soul and body, enable us to finish the course of this Holy Fast with faith, hope, and love, that we may be healed in soul and body, and come to the Great Week of His Sufferings with a powerful, burning faith in the power of His Resurrection to grant us eternal life. Amen.