Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! The Gospel that was read today tells of the great miracle of the healing of the paralytic performed by our Lord Jesus Christ and of His mercy for suffering humanity. This Gospel bears the closest relation to each of us, and can serve as a great edification and comfort for us.
The Gospel tells us that not far from the Temple in Jerusalem was a sheep pool (something like a basin). An Angel of the Lord descended into this pool at a certain season, troubling the water and conveying miraculous power to it. Whoever went first into the water after its troubling by the Angel received healing from whatever illness he had. This healing power attracted many sick people to the water. Among them was a man who had suffered from a great ailment for thirty-seven years, but who had nonetheless never lost heart in the hope of healing.
Our Lord Jesus Christ came to Jerusalem on the occasion of a feast and visited the sheep pool. Turning his attention to the paralytic that was patiently awaiting God’s mercy, the Lord asked him: Wilt thou be made whole? Sir, replied the sick man, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Then the Lord said: Rise, take up thy bed, and walk (Jn 5:6-8). O wonder! With a single Divine word the Lord instantaneously healed the sick man. Having suffered from a terrible infirmity for thirty-seven years, he was immediately made well, took up his bed, and walked. But this was on a Sabbath day, and the Jews said that on the Sabbath it was not allowed to carry one’s bed. Then the one who had been healed answered: (Jn 5:11). Jesus Christ was no longer there with them. He had hid among the people. Later, when the Lord met the healed one in the Temple, He added the following words: He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee (Jn 5:14).
The first thing that deserves our attention is the firm faith of the sick man and the mercy of God. He suffered from a serious illness for thirty-seven years, but his patience and hope were not exhausted. He believed and hoped to receive that for which he asked, and the Lord remembered him and granted him healing. Learn from this example, my dear ones, to be patient when we are visited by sorrows, of which there are so many. Strive to put your trust in the Lord God and, hoping in Him, draw strength and courage to bear without murmuring every kind of sorrow and failure in life. No matter how severe your sorrows may be, no matter how long they last – believe that the Lord can help you, and sooner or later He will relieve your suffering, if you will only have firm, unwavering faith in His mercy. Everything is possible to the Lord, and He can instantaneously transform your sorrow into joy. Indeed, sorrows and troubles are at times unendurable to people, and we, out of our cowardice and impatience, not infrequently lose trust in God’s mercy, and cry and murmur, saying: “I am patient and I pray, but the Lord does not see my tears” – and we begin to fall into despair. You see how faint we are at times! May the example of the paralytic’s patient endurance serve for the edification of us all.
Dear brothers and sisters! If we believe that there is a God, that He gave over His Only-Begotten to death for our sake, if we believe that none other than the Heavenly Father directs our entire life – then we must therefore place all our trust on Him. Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He will nourish thee… (Ps 54:23).
We sometimes wish that our petitions and prayers would be fulfilled immediately, not considering that God knows better than we what is more profitable for us and when to offer us consolation. We cry and moan, calling ourselves unfortunate and, supposedly, suffering innocently our entire lives, not remembering the apostle’s teaching from the Lord: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourageth every son whom He receiveth (Heb 12:6). Through the bearing of sorrow and physical suffering the Lord heals our soul, preparing it for the future life, teaching us humility and un-hypocritical trust in His mercy. The visitation of tribulations is a clear witness that the Lord has turned special attention to you during this time. He wants to educate you in salvation, giving you the possibility to show Him how rich you are in faith, hope, and love – those essential Christian virtues, without which no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is no accident that the saints and righteous ones considered themselves neglected by the Lord when sorrows had not visited them for a long time. The Apostle Paul says: we glory not only in that, through faith, we receive justification and hope for the future, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience: and patience, experience: and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us (Rom 5:3-5). Sorrows are our teacher, they teach us patience, experience, and skill. Experience is a great thing in life. Experience animates in one confidence in success.
But we do not want to cultivate this miraculous power in ourselves, even when the Lord Himself, in His love for man, decides to raise it in us, this power. Then we murmur against Him, weeping for our fate: why does it require of us stress, effort, care, and work beyond our strength? Not knowing that, by our cowardice, we are substantially hampering God’s grace from helping us – we become incapable of anything, not allowing ourselves to receive in ourselves the grace that requires of us decisiveness in giving our will to the Lord.
The words from the Gospel that was read cannot but draw our attention, when the Lord says to the healed paralytic: Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee (Jn 5:14). It is clear from these words that there is the very tightest connection between illness and sin. As long as the first people 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 Repentance. No matter how man has fallen, he always has the possibility to get back up. Recognize your sin, regret that you have 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-seven years serve for us as a consolation in the hope of God’s mercy.
Let us speak in the words of the Apostle James: Be ye also patient; establish your hearts… (Jm 5:8). 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!