Prior to today’s theme, we have read of the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection: the apostle St. Thomas, and then the myrrh bearing women. These two Sundays’ themes declare to us the fact of the resurrection. Today’s theme is quite different: we are asked to confront the weaknesses and sins which remain in our lives in light of our Lord’s resurrection. This day, we return to a lenten-like consciousness to bring our lives in line with Christ’s light and life.

The gospel reading comes from John 5: 1 – 15. We have a description of the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem, and we are informed the pool was surrounded by the ill, the blind, the paralyzed, and the crippled. They all waited for the pool’s water to be “disturbed” by an angel: the first one in upon the disturbance was cured. Among those near the pool was a paralytic who “was ill for 38 years.” Jesus approaches the man (whose name is not given) and asks him: “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5: 6). This man then explains his dilemma: “I have no man that could cast me into the pool when the water is disturbed. While I am going another descends into the pool before me” (John 5: 7). Jesus then acts to heal him apart from the pool’s water. “Jesus says to him, ‘arise, take up you mat and walk.’ And immediately the man became healed and took up his mat and walked” (John 5: 8 – 9).

St. John’s account continues, and we come to the matter which we are to address,
And after these things, Jesus finds him in the Temple and said to him: “Look, you have become healed, no longer sin, so that nothing worse might happen to you!” (John 5: 14).

By Jesus’ action, healing had come to the man after 38 years of suffering. But unlike others who received Christ’s healing (such as the man born blind, and the woman with the terrible dysmenorrhea), this man’s infirmity came about as a consequence of sin. Was he injured following a crime? Was his paralysis brought about as the result of jealousy and wrath from an adulterous affair? We do not know. We do know that he was confronted by Christ, and warned not to return to the life which brought about his injury and paralysis! He was to (literally and spiritually) walk in newness of life!

And so we are confronted this fourth Sunday of Pascha. We who live in the reality of Christ’s resurrection, and the healing given to us by the Cross and the Resurrection, are to conduct our lives in concert with these liberating gifts given to us. A paschal hymn declares this to us: “Thy resurrection O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing, enable us on earth to glorify thee in purity of heart!”

Thus lived the saints who have gone before us, and are together with us to encourage us and to pray for us. St. Paul reminds us of this, and encourages us to imitate them as we follow our Lord in our days:

For that very reason, having such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, we are to put away every impediment and entangling sin, and through patient endurance to run the race set before us, while fixing our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy placed before him, endured the Cross, despising its shame, has been seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12: 1 – 2).

For this reason the Church has the healed paralytic set before us this fourth Sunday of Pascha. Living in Christ, and thus in his resurrection, we are to contemplate and act on the warning of Christ given to the man made whole by the power of our Lord! This posting is concluded by a kontakion (hymn) of the day:

By your divine intercession, O Lord, as you raised up the paralytic of old, so raise up my soul, paralyzed by sins and thoughtless acts; so that being saved I may sing to you: “Glory to your power, O compassionate Christ!”

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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