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 …