Illness and Sin - A Homily on the Sunday of the Paralytic (2020)

Illness and Sin - A Homily on the Sunday of the Paralytic (2020) - Holy Cross Monastery

Given at Holy Cross Monastery

May 10, 2020

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today we commemorate the healing of the paralytic on the 4th Sunday of Pascha.

Built by Solomon, the Sheep’s Pool, was used to wash the sacrificial lambs before they were offered in the Temple. As we hear in the Gospel narrative, and angel came down and stirred the waters once a year. Anyone who could make their way into the water first and bathe in it were healed of whatever malady they suffered. There were five porches around the pool which were crowded with people who were sick and afflicted with various sufferings. We can surely imagine a man paralyzed with no one to help him, trying to reach the waters. Would we not experience frustration, and powerlessness if we, having been in this condition for thirty eight years, not to mention anger, jealousy and all manner of passions in his situation?

How often do we allow our passions get the better of us in lesser circumstances, even in our present condition. We complain, or moan about this or that, or someone or something. We are neither patient nor are we accepting of our own situations. This man, the paralytic, did not ask of the Lord to heal him, but Christ approached him and asked if he wanted to be healed and as the man explained, he had no one to help him get into the water. Christ knowing his condition said, "pick up your bed and walk!" The Gospel tells us, that he was made well and did as Jesus said. 

Now to those Jews under the Law, carrying anything or working on the Sabbath was a sin. He knew this, but as the Paralytic said to the Pharisees, "the Man who healed me told to pick up my bed and walk." The blind guides were so focused on the Law that none of them took the time to realize the healing of this paralytic! They disregarded the man’s healing, a man paralyzed for thirty eight years who had been patient and faithful that whole time. We can see that Jesus rewarded his virtue of faith and patience. Jesus also said to him, "sin no more since you have been made whole, or a worse thing may come upon you."

Sickness and health have a lot to do with the condition we find ourselves in, physically and spiritually. How often today do we hear that this is not a valid reason for man to explain sickness and health? I remember that back in the 1980’s people saying that the AIDS virus could not possibly be linked to sin, that seemed ridiculous to our so-called modern and egocentric minds. Didn’t it have the same connotations as the COVID-19 Virus has for us today? Today people have forgotten God and churches remain empty, not just because of the shut down due to the Virus. No, this has been happening even before this year’s viral pandemic.

People in Europe failed to depend on God and have basically turned their backs on Him who is the Creator of all and not just "across the pond" but here and in all countries.  As it is said in today’s Gospel, Jesus told the Paralytic, "sin no more, or a greater thing may come upon you." Jesus here, links the two, i.e. sin and sickness together. Whether it be a physical cause or a spiritual one. 

I would like to end with a quote from Archimandrite Kyrill Pavlov who sums up the Gospel reading more succinctly:

It is clear from these words that there is the very tightest connection between illness and sin.  As long as the first people, Adam and Eve did not sin they were healthy in body and soul.  But later they were unable to preserve themselves from sin – then from sin came illness.  This phenomenon repeats itself now too, and this law of dependency will remain in effect until the end of the ages.  Every violation of the law, both in the physical realm and in the moral realm will be accompanied by a disordering of our nature and will always be accompanied by illness.  Therefore, knowing this truth, let us by all means avoid sin, as the cause of the destruction of our spiritual and physical natures. 

Meanwhile there is no one who is able continuously to safeguard himself against sin.  According to the Word of God: “for there is no man who lives without sinning, even if he lives but one day on the earth”.  But the grace of God gives us the means continuously to cleanse ourselves from sin in the Mystery of Confession.  No matter how man has fallen, he always has the possibility to get back up.  Recognize your sin, regret that you hav offended the All-Good God, and show the firm intention of correction – and then the Lord, in His mercy, will forgive you your sin and grant His grace.  But if afflictions visit us and our petitions are long in being answered, then let the example of the paralytic who suffered for thirty eight years serve for us as a consolation in the hope of God’s mercy. 

Give your life over to the will of God.  Believe this: the Lord knows better than us when to look upon us, and when to turn His precious face from us.  No matter what happens in life, cry out more often: My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit: O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee.






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