Sermon – Fourth Sunday of Pascha 2021
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
May 23, 2021
Next week Wednesday (May 26th) is the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, or the half-way point of the fifty-day period between Easter and Pentecost. The Gospel lessons of the Sunday just prior to Mid-Pentecost and those that follow all include something in common. In each of these Gospel lessons water is included and is a significant element of the healing which took place in each of the lessons. Today’s Gospel lesson is of the healing of the paralytic in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate pool (Bethesda). Although the man never entered the pool, known for its miraculous healing power, the man who was paralyzed responded to Jesus’ instruction to pick up his bed and walk.
In one of the hymns today we hear: Lord, it was not the pool that healed the paralytic, but Your word. The power of Your voice was stronger than the chronic bond of the disease. Therefore he cast away the burden of sickness and took up his bed as a witness to Your abundant mercies…
Today’s Epistle lesson also describes the healings that began to take place after Christ’s Resurrection when Peter, the Apostle, visited a paralyzed man named Aeneas. Peter’s words were “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; arise and make your bed.” We are told that the man rose immediately.
To properly understand Sacramental power, such as the power of God’s healing, is to recognize the power of God’s word; also that it is Christ who heals. God’s word accompanies the tangible and material substances, whether it is water, oil, bread, or wine. They become a “point of contact,” a means of communion with God, but not as an end in themselves.
For the woman with the hemorrhage whom the Lord healed, it was simply reaching out to touch the hem of our Lord’s garment, for the Roman centurion with a dying son, a man who knew what it was to be one under authority; it was calling upon the Lord to say the word.
And so, for each of us, there is a point of contact: sometimes a situation or an important object (but not an idol), perhaps a person, a certain place that becomes for us a means (but not the location itself), but a means by which we experience or begin a process of healing. Sometimes, it may even require us to do something which is not easy: returning to a difficult memory, learning to forgive someone, going back to a certain place, overcoming a fear, facing a person, rediscovering peace.
Whatever it is, healing is not always instantaneous. It may take time or even require you and me to do something that may be difficult and challenging. It may even sometimes require us to begin doing something differently. And the older we get, the harder it could be! Why, because we like being comfortable. We find it easier to be at ease with what we are familiar with, even though sometimes, we know, it may not be what is best for us.
Having completed the course of Great Lent and Holy Week, the season of Pascha provides us with the opportunity to break through any of the walls and barriers, ways of thinking and behavior in our life that cause us to be spiritually and sometimes physically paralyzed. It also requires the acceptance of responsibility; discovering what is our job to do – not as a chore, but as a labor of love and a ministry; a work that has meaning in joyful service.
For all of us, sometimes it takes as much effort and open-mindedness after Great Lent as it did during Great Lent for us to rid ourselves of our mindset, even our prejudices. It begins with hearing what Christ is saying to us – and really has been saying for a long time: “Take up your bed and walk!”
From today’s lesson we are able to see clearly how our relationship with God involves knowing or discovering what we must begin to do for ourselves. Recognizing that there are certain things that no one else can accomplish for us (not even God!). It also pertains to the importance of our personal response to God’s word. It pertains to knowing what we must do upon hearing and learning His message and instruction; His wisdom. Yes, doing what sometimes seems even impossible. Yes, doing even what we might think we cannot do. And yes, doing perhaps something that WE DO NOT WANT TO DO! The paralytic in today’s lesson was filled with excuses. He had a chronic sickness that was spiritually affecting his physical well being.
In the Vesperal hymn we hear his chronic condition described in this way: The paralytic, who was like unto a dead man unburied, having seen Thee, O Lord, cried out, and “Have mercy upon me; for my bed hath become my grave. Of what use is my life? I have no need for the sheep’s pool; for there is none to put me into the pool. How is it that I come to Thee, O Fountain of all healing, that with all I may cry unto Thee, “Lord Almighty, glory to Thee!”
And so, on this, the fourth Sunday of Pascha, the Gospel lesson helps to see how our life in Christ (here and now) is to be a life illumined by the Resurrection. Our celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death is not only about those who have died in Christ. The full experience of resurrected life is not only for those who are dead in Christ. You and I today must be a participant in what we proclaim in all that Christ has accomplished: For we are among those who have been baptized into Christ’s Death and raised by His Resurrection. You and I are to live each day of our lives in that victory of what He has accomplished for us.
We hear in the third ode of the Paschal canon: Yesterday I was buried with Thee, O Christ, and today I rise with Thine arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee; do Thou Thyself glorify me with Thee, O Savior, in Thy Kingdom!
We thank Thee, O Christ our God for your word that renews us today. Like the Paralytic, may we put aside our excuses and faithfully respond to your word to us. Help us to look beyond what we perceive as our limitations, to act in faith, hope and love. Strengthen us in our time of weakness and despair and help us as we take up our mats to walk. As we turn to you may we also be a help and comfort to those who need us. Keep us strong. Grant us courage. And fill our lives with your peace. For you are the Lord of mercy and of love toward mankind and unto you do we ascribe glory together with Thy Father who is from everlasting and Thine all-holy good and Life-giving Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages. A-men.