A HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAYOF GREAT LENT
About the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof, and About Great Lent and the Healing of Our Souls
Brothers and sisters!
Once, as He was going about Galilee preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, our Lord Jesus Christ entered a house in Capernaum and began teaching the word of life, as He did everywhere He went. Many people gathered to hear Him, and first the house filled up, then the area in front of the door was blocked by the listeners. Soon, the whole neighborhood was full of people thronging the streets. Four men brought a paralytic on his cot to the house, but the crowd was so large and dense they could not reach the One Who healed every sickness and every disease among the people. Only with the greatest difficulty did they manage to get to one of the exterior walls, but since it presented no opening, they climbed onto the roof and began disassembling it. When they had made a hole large enough to fit the paralyzed man through, they hoisted him up, then lowered him through the hole to the floor of the house, so that he lay before the Lord. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. Then, to prove to the unbelieving scribes who were sitting there and to every generation of unbelievers and weak believers that He is the God-man Who hath power on earth to forgive sins, He saith to the sick of the palsy, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately the man arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all. Everyone who saw this was utterly amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
Such was the reward granted by the Son of God to the four bearers for their ardent faith, a reward which also of course extended to the paralytic himself!
If the paralytic had been brought to an earthly physician, the doctor no doubt would have thought it useless to concern himself with the man’s sins and would have busied himself at once with doing whatever he could to help relieve the paralytic’s physical plight. But the divine Physician proceeds otherwise, beginning by healing the paralyzed man’s spiritual infirmity through remission of his sins, then healing his body. He does this for three reasons, the first of which we have already mentioned; namely, to demonstrate His divine power to forgive sins, by performing an astonishing miracle immediately after pronouncing the words of absolution. The second reason He acted thus was to remind every generation that sin is the chief illness for which we must seek healing. The third reason is that sin is the ultimate cause of all our physical infirmities, as it was of the paralytic’s infirmity. All illnesses and death itself have their root in the paralysis of sin in the human soul. For this cause man, that composite of a lofty, spirit-endowed soul and a lowly body, has been ailing for thousands of years from a multitude of disorders of both soul and body.
Why is it, dear brothers and sisters, that the Holy Church has ordained that her children hear this story now, during the season of repentance, forgiveness, and healing: the season of the Great Fast, when all Christians flock to the Lord’s sacred temples? It is because every one of us is afflicted with paralysis of the soul -- that is, with sin -- and because she greatly desires that we hasten in repentance to be healed by Jesus Christ. Each of us knows, in the depth of his being, what is the particular form of paralysis gripping his soul. This passion -- his “ruling” passion -- exerts an especially paralyzing force upon him. It dulls his spiritual understanding, weakens his will’s intent to do good, and grievously impairs his ability to struggle against all the other forms of evil in his heart. It paralyzes the whole spiritual man, as physical paralysis paralyzes the whole physical man.
Some of us, convicted by conscience, constantly acknowledge their illness, and need but relatively little encouragement to hasten to Christ at all times in repentance and be healed. Others need much assistance from outside: they need, not four men to carry them, but the fervent exhortations of the Holy Church and her servitors, and especially the contrite services of Great Lent to bring them to their senses, so that they acknowledge their plight fully and deeply, and turn with all their heart for healing to Jesus Christ. Such a person am I, and, perhaps, many others here. Our paralysis is so severe that, on our own, we can hardly take a single step forward towards the Kingdom of heaven.
But even the exhortations of the Holy Church and the compunctionate Lenten services will not open a hole in the roof of our soul and let us down at the feet of the Saviour if we do not allow them to do so. Therefore, we must allow them. For how else will we be delivered from our total and complete paralysis, if we do not consent to make good use of their help?
Lo, Jesus Christ abides in this sacred temple, as once in that house in Capernaum, awaiting every penitent paralyzed by sin. Every time a sinner enters this holy house with fervent repentance, Christ is here, waiting for him. Every time the sinner offers Him such repentance, the Lord says to him in his heart, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. What hinders me or you from coming to Him, especially now, during this wondrous season of repentance, when the divine services are so eager to bring us in and lay us at Christ’s feet in repentance? What hinders us from drawing nigh to the Lord and being healed?
Come then, and make good use of the great boon of Holy Lent, and be cured of your spiritual paralysis, sinful but faithful Christian. Christ yearns to receive you, and to put you on your feet, so that you can tread the way to His Kingdom. Only, remember that your repentance must be sincere and fervent, and that for it to be so, you must be willing to do the deeds opposite of the passion that has you in its grip. If the passion is pride, then you must be willing to humble yourself consistently and constantly, in every circumstance. If the passion is spiritual laziness, then you must be willing to force yourself without self-pity to standing at prayer, vigil, attendance at the divine services, and other soul-saving labors. If the passion is stinginess, then you must be willing to give alms to the temple and the poor far beyond what is required of those not grievously ill with your passion.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, during this most sacred of seasons, and at every time and season, come before Christ in the spirit of repentance, and resolve, with the Lord’s help, to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, no matter how difficult a struggle that may entail for you, so that you may hear the beloved words, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk. Amen.
 Matt. 9:35
 Luke 3:8; Matt. 3:8