Sermon – The Sixth Sunday of Pentecost 2019
The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
July 28, 2019
Today’s Gospel lesson is an illustration of how God honors the faith that we exercise on behalf of others. The lesson also demonstrates Christ’s authority to heal sufferings with the forgiveness of his sins.
At the end of this month and at the start of August, we will be entering another period of fasting (August 1-14) dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God (the Theotokos). It concludes with the memorial or “Dormition” of the Theotokos, also called the “Feast of the Assumption.” Each evening during the Fast our church traditionally holds an intercessory prayer service called Paraklesis [pah-RAH-ke-sis] on behalf of those who are in need of aid and help for health and support through trials and difficulties (see Liturgical Calendar for dates of scheduled services).
The word “intercession” and phrase “through the intercessions…” is often used in our services and pertain to the role that the Virgin mother and the saints have in prayer for us. The word intercession is distinct from the words: prayer or supplication.
Who is an intercessor? The Holy Theotokos (“The Mother of God”). There are myriads of intercessors which also include saints. They are intercessors, who pray on behalf of others; whose lives are testimony to the victory and triumph of the Cross some of whom have received the crowns of Holy Martyrdom. All of us need more than prayers, we need intercessors: persons who have “fought the good fight;” our advocates and mediators; whose triumph is victorious because of the One who has overcome all for us: our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The paralyzed man spoken about in today’s Gospel, who lay on a mat, was brought to Jesus by some men of faith. In a commentary on today’s lesson, St. Cyril of Alexandra stated: “What then does the Lord do? Having seen their faith—not that of the paralytic, but of [those who carried the man]; for it is possible for one to be healed by the faith of others . . . [Those who brought him to the Lord] believed, and the [paralyzed man] enjoyed the blessing of the cure.”
Everyone needs someone at various times of one’s life. A child is not able to live without nurturing and good parenting. A Godparent’s responsibility is mentoring. A cumbaro and cumbara… stand as sponsors (like Godparents) to a bride and groom. A good employee does not become a good employee nor does one become a good business owner without being trained by people with experience. A student may not find a classroom experience enough and parents may seek the help of a tutor. And a senior member in a family is not without need once life becomes more difficult and physical disabilities increase. Today, we’ve developed the profession of being a “caregiver” for our elderly.
Aside from the fact that the paralytic in today’s gospel was unable to make his way into the place where Jesus was all by himself, the man was apparently heavily laden with the guilt of sin. We hear Jesus say to the man when he saw him: “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” So then, you might ask, did the man need physical or spiritual healing? Well, in this case it was obviously both. For Jesus also said to the man, “Rise, take up your bed, and go home.” And the man did just that, and the people marveled.
We learn from the seven Gospel lessons and prayers of the Sacrament of Holy Unction (the Sacrament of healing) that sin can also impact our physical well being. Moreover, physical conditions can also be spiritually paralyzing. It must be noted, however, that not all physical conditions are directly related to a person’s spiritual life.
Many people today, thanks to medical science, have the means of doing much more with physical disabilities than those who are fortunate to have all of their faculties and bodily functions. It amazes me to observe the stories of the many in our military that, in facing the trauma of various kinds of injuries today, are fortunate have surgical procedures that help to provide them with as much of a normal life as possible. Our country has done a great deal to provide for facilities for disabled persons in public places that exceeds what can be noticeably provided by any other country. However, a positive disposition, a faithful partner in life, great determination, support of friends and family – all help to transform a personal disability into a tremendous testimony.
The New Testament scripture teaches that to each of us has been given a measure of faith. The quantity of faith is not so much the issue, for as we know, Jesus pointed out that having faith as small as a grain of mustard seed is indeed great faith. It is how one acts upon and exercises his faith that is very important. Having some men to help the paralytic meant all the difference to whether or not the man was healed on that day.
Similarly, we hear in today’s Epistle lesson how each of us as a member of the Body of Christ – the Church, are to exercise the gift of faith in sober judgment (verse 3), and to exercise our gifts, talents, and skills in proportion to the measure of grace given to each of us (verse 5). The Apostle is specific. He says, “if it is in serving, let him serve; if it is in teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is in leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Above all, the passage continues, love must be the motivation. More importantly, St. Paul says, (verse 9ff) “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” He then points out, “Be devoted to one another on brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
You and I can play a vital role in being a help to others. Our Church provides a host of examples through the centuries beginning with St. Joseph of Arimathea who helped our Lord Jesus Christ with the Cross on the road to His crucifixion. You and I can play a vital role as not only being people of prayer, but as intercessors. The All-holy Virgin Mother of God is the first among the saints. Just bear in mind that such a gift, (being an intercessor) is a very holy calling. Many intercessors do not even know who they are. Yes, you and I are not without intercessors: those who stand with us pray and help us; do those things that demonstrate God’s love and His abundant mercies