Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Third Sunday after Pascha--The Paralytic

Three weeks ago, we thundered into Pascha siging "Christ is Risen."  Two weeks ago, we had our faith strengthened even though Thomas doubted and, still, we sung "Christ is Risen."  Last week, we marveled at the heroism and courage of the myrrhbearers who risked imprisonment and even death for defying guards placed at the tomb by Pilate and we again sang out, "Christ is Risen."  Now, we have come to the third week, the healing of the Paralytic.  Is "Christ is Risen" starting to sound hollow and something done by rote without the fire we had a mere three weeks ago?

It probably doesn't help that the Gospel appointed for today's feast has nothing ostensibly to do with Christ's Resurrection and triumph over death. In fact, it takes place long before the events of Great Friday and Pascha.  It's just another one of those miracle stories, not too different from any other miracle stories that are omnipresent in the Gospels.  If we concentrate simply on Christ healing then we  it is extremely easily to be discouraged and not to realize the truth that is being proclaimed. For that, we have to focus not on Christ, but on the paralytic himself and the others afflicted at the pool of Bethesda.

Christ asks the paralytic whether he wants to be healed.  I'm surprised a sarcastic answer along the lines of "No, I'm here to work on my tan" didn't come out of the paralytic--after all he had been there for 38 years.  He didn't answer "yes" or "no," but began saying, "I have no man."  His answer is telling in that there are a number of people are there to be healed, but all are there for themselves.  It seems no one helps another.  When the pool is troubled, each man forgets his neighbor and rushes to get to the pool first.  The people by the pool are no different then from the rest of society save for their respective infirmities.  When a chance comes to get ahead, members of society trample upon one another to get that morsel, whether it is for fame, power, riches, possessions, respect, etc..  When everyone else by the pool displayed this same egoism and desire for self, it is not unexpected that the paralytic is upset that he lacks a relationship with another person to help him obtain his desire.

Being as communion. I've recently started to read Metropolitan JOHN's (Zizoulas) book Being As Communion. It is, as expected, a very involved and difficult read, but worth it.  God's very nature is such that He must commune that He must be relational.  Christ came to restore that relationship with man, but that can only happen when man starts to remove himself from his own egoistic tendencies.  Christ, the Theanthropos, genuinely loves and desires to restore a relationship with the paralytic. The paralytic may not understand it immediately, though after his healing, Christ tells Him to sin no more.  The relationship with the divine can only be kept when we remove sin from ourselves.

In the icon of the Harrowing of Hades, Christ is seen taking the hands of both Adam and Eve and pulling them out of the tombs.  He doesn't just merely say "come out" but He approaches them, touches them and guides them into His Resurrection.  Adam and Eve sinned because they forsook the relationship with God and looked only to themslves.  Such with the paralytic.  He too was consumed with self, though he seems to long for that lost relationship which prevented him from being healed. Yet, Christ touched him and guided him to healing.  This is another Resurrection story, just not as obvious.

So, let us not be lukewarm about singing "Christ is Risen."  We have only a few more weeks of it until we enter into the feast of Pentecost.  Then we'll wonder where the time went.  Christ bestows life, He bestows a relationship, He bestows Himself.

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