Sunday of Paralysed Man (John 5:1b-15) 2018
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, … Amen
As some of you will know, I was, for a number of years, a Samaritan volunteer. As a Samaritan you soon learn the importance of exploring ‘Feelings’. And, as a man, you soon learn that ‘Feelings’ are not the sort of thing we males like to talk about! Our feelings reflect the way we view and experience the situations in which we find ourselves.
Now consider how the paralysed man in today’s gospel reading might have felt. We do not know the biological origin of his paralysis; only that he had suffered infirmity for 38 years. We know also that he had been lain a short distance from healing. All that was needed was for him to enter the pool at the moment that the waters were stirred. But, alas he did not have the strength to get himself into the pool.
And no-one, not one single person in all the time he had been there, had shown him compassion. No-one had offered to help him. Others had rushed into the pool when the waters were stirred. Some under there own steam, others helped by friends, family and those who loved them. But this man had no-one. No-one cast a glance at him, no-one cared, no-one showed him compassion. Consider how he might have felt! Consider the feelings of loneliness, the feelings of total isolation that he might have experienced. How many times might he have asked, why me? What have I done to deserve this? Is God punishing me?
How might you have felt if this was your life!
Not all paralysis is as obvious as this man's! We are surrounded by people who are paralysed. Sometimes physical, but more often emotional or spiritual paralysis.
Anxiety can be paralyzing. Often, living with anxiety is like living without the ability to live for yourself.
We all have moments of procrastination, but for some people procrastination is crippling, paralysing! The muscles work, the mind works, but you are completely unable to take any type of constructive action. Like a zombie, you walk around in your house, get distracted, spend endless hours on Facebook, it can take you hours to finally get yourself to take a shower or go for a walk; you can respond to other people’s demands on you but, when it comes to following your own directives or desires, your body no longer responds.
Spiritual Paralysis; We may have been spared physical paralysis, we may have been spared emotional paralysis, but none of us can escape spiritual paralysis. At its root, Spiritual paralysis is caused by sin which causes damage to the nous (soul), the mind, the heart and even the body.
How do we know if we have spiritual paralysis? What are the symptoms?
Well, Spiritual paralysis can manifest itself in many ways but perhaps the most common is wanting to do the right thing, for example, go to church, pray, help others etc. but then not having or taking the time, making excuses, or
becoming distracted with interruptions and other priorities. Trying to do the right thing; but then messing it up
for example, despite best efforts one consistently arrives late for church Praying selfishly for the wrong things, hurting instead of helping others. Or, worse yet, no longer having the desire to do the right thing. It may be that we are having difficulty controlling our thoughts or feelings. Almost as though someone else has taken control. These are all symptoms of spiritual paralysis.
As I said earlier, we are surrounded by those suffering paralyses. In fact, this world can appear paralytic – Spiritually and morally paralysed, not knowing how to overcome the problems that it has invented for itself!
In our gospel reading Jesus shows us the intimate connection between the soul and the body. Jesus heals the man, not only physically but he also heals him spiritually by forgiving his sins. He, who overcame death in his own body, has power over all human flesh. Our Lord can heal the paralysed man because he himself can rise from the dead.
However, something is needed for healing to take place ...
v6: He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
Before healing can take place, there needs to be a desire to be healed. Our Lord does not heal those who do not want to be healed. Do those countries that wish to engage in conflict and want to slaughter other peoples, really want healing? Do they really want to be healed of their passion for bloodletting, hatred and terrorism? Do corrupt politicians really want to be healed of their greed and need for power? Do those criminals who persistently steal want to be healed of their desire for material riches?
And what about us! Do we want to be healed of our sinfulness and passions? Do we really want to be less indifferent to God and is Church? Do we really want to be healed of our lack of faith?
I once heard a story of a missionary in India who was appalled to see chickens, for sale at a market, that had been tied to wooden stakes. The chickens could only walk as far as their tethers would allow. And so, as they waited to be sold, the chickens walked around and around the stakes creating furrows in the ground.
The missionary felt that he needed to do something to ease the suffering of the chickens and so, he bought them all.
Then having paid, He instructed the vendor to cut all the strings and free the chickens. And so, the strings were cut, and the chickens were, for the first time in their lives, free!
And guess what they did!
They continued to walk around the stakes, walking in the same furrows. The chickens continued to do what they had always done!
Like those chickens, we too have been set free. Christ gives us freedom. But we need to take advantage of that freedom. The freedom Christ offers brings healing and so we can be healed and freed from our paralysis. But, only if that is what we want. We need to “take up our bed and walk”. Or, like the chickens, we can continue to do what we have always done; The choice is ours!
Through the prayers of all our Holy Fathers …
Sunday of Myrrh-Bearing Women 2018
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and Of the Holy Spirit - Amen
“ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”.
This is a typical definition of bravery. These past few days, I have asked a few people who they considered to be brave and I have been surprised how difficult people found it to answer that question! If I were to ask you who you consider to be brave I wonder what you would say? I did a quick check online to see which individuals are considered to be the bravest in History. I wonder if you would agree with this list?
Galileo Galilei Dietrich Bonhoeffer Witold Pilecki Helen Keller Moses Jesus Christ Giuseppe Garibaldi Martin Luther King Nelson Mandela Winston Churchill Rosa Parks Socrates Muhammad Ali Maximilian Kolbe Mahatma Gandhi Desmond Tutu Dalai Lama Amelia Earhart Harriet Tubman
There’s church in Ruddington that has two graves containing the remains of two soldiers who fought at the battle of Rorkes Drift. It was January 1829, at Rorkes Drift that just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. Now although I have no interest at all in military history, since a child I have been fascinated by the movie ‘ZULU’ and have always considered the soldiers at Rorkes Drift to have shown tremendous courage.
Today - the second Sunday after Pascha – we remember and celebrate the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women. But not only them! We also remember Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Why? Who are these people? The Gospels hardly seem to mention them! What did they do that was so special?
Well they all have something in common – They all exemplify perfect love, bravery and faithfulness.
Let us consider their actions! At great personal risk to themselves, and at a time when all seemed lost, when most all had abandoned Christ, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for our Lord’s body and took him down from the cross.
Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, had visited Jesus, under cover of darkness, spent a huge sum of money on myrrh and aloes, was then cast out of the synagogue, and suffered for disclosing the Jewish plot to hide and deny the truth of Jesus Crucifixion and Resurrection. It was Nicodemus who helped Joseph of Arimathea to bury our Lord.
Then, after the body of our Lord had been sealed in the tomb, and whilst others hid in fear, the brave Myrrh-Bearing women, risked everything, out of love for Christ, to anoint him with myrrh and sweet spices.
For all of them this was a moment of great personal crisis. But they did not think of themselves. Instead they ministered to the body of Christ with selfless love! None of them had gotten what they wanted, not Joseph of Arimathea, not Nicodemus, not the Myrrh-Bearing women. All were grieving, and I am sure they were all experiencing intense feelings of fear and disappointment. Nothing had turned out as expected. Yet despite thisthey resisted the temptation to think only of themselves! And because they were able to keep their focus on serving Jesus they reacted very differently to the other disciples.
In their own way, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus and the Myrrh-Bearing women, all showed immense courage, showed selfless sacrifice, showed their love and respect for Jesus and his body! Now this should be of considerable concern to each of us, because we, each and every one of us, is called to be a Myrrh-Bearer!
Like Joseph of Arimathea, like Nicodemus, like the Myrrh-bearing women, we too Know the truth of the Crucifixion.
We too know the truth of the resurrection and so, to become myrrh-bearers we need only to care for the Body of Christ.
Now the Apostle Paul teaches us that the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor12 v27 “Now you are the body of Christ”)
But of course, that is not as easy as it sounds! Like the Myrrh-Bearing women we too need to overcome our fears.
We need to show love and compassion, we need to give of ourselves and all we have, we need to make sacrifices.
To do anything for the Church, the Body of Christ, is not easy in todays’ world. The world tries to condemn the Church because our values are contrary to those of the world. The world tries to create scandal and controversy around the Church to dishearten us and to turn people away from the church. To do anything for the Church requires FAITH! And those with little faith will find they have little time or patience for the Church.
Today we remember Joseph of Arimathea, we remember Nicodemus, we remember Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, Martha of Bethany, Sister of Lazarus, Mary of Bethany, Sister of Lazarus, Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas, Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Susanna. – The Myrrh-Bearing women. And as we remember them let us also remember and celebrate the Myrrh-Bearers amongst us!
Those Myrrh-bearers who sing in the choir,
Those Myrrh-bearers who bake the prosphora
Those Myrrh-bearers who clean, set up and dismantle the church
Those Myrrh-bearers who sew vestments, falls and alter covers
Those Myrrh-bearers who, make the tea, donate food, or washup
Those Myrrh-bearers who donate icons, make offerings of money
And Those Myrrh-bearers who simply and faithfully come along each week to worship and pray!
We are all called to be Myrrh-Bearers, we are all called to care for the body of Christ, The Church!
From last week’s canon …
“let us bring our hymns of praise to the Master instead of ointments, and we shall see Christ the Sun of Righteousness causing life to dawn for all.”
Through the prayers of all our Holy Fathers, O’ Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Amen