My dear friends in our Lord: Christ is risen!
My friends, sin brings about many and great evils. It causes harm and great loss to the soul, and often, when the wickedness of sin has increased and run rampant, it affects the body also. This is as true of society as it is of the individual. Now, it often happens that when the soul is ill, many of us remain insensible to the fact, but when the body is ill, we take care to return it to health by every possible means, and we are anxious to free it from the sickness that lays it low.
For this reason the Lord, Who seeks our salvation in so many and diverse ways, will permit the body to fall ill, and lets it be hurt by the very things which cause the soul to fall into sin, so that through the wounds and infirmities of the body we may note the ways in which the the soul also needs to be healed and freed from sin. This is illustrated for us in the words of today’s Gospel.
We hear that our Lord goes up to Jerusalem, and it is on the feast of Pentecost that our Lord went up to Jerusalem. He did so in order that He might fulfill the Law and bring it to its perfection; God Himself keeping the feast together with his Faithful, and drawing together a multitude of sincere people, by His signs and by His teaching.
We also hear of this pond, this pool called “Probatica,” which in Hebrew, as Saint John tells us, was called “Bethsaida.” Now, this pool was near to what is called the “sheep gate,” at the Temple, at which the sheep set aside for sacrifice would be assembled and cleaned. Now, an angel would come to this water as to a special place and move the water, with God performing the miracle of healing upon one who then entered the water. The water did not heal by it’s nature, in and of itself; otherwise, healings would have taken place at all times; but the healings were performed by the mediation of an angel and by the action of God.
Likewise, for us, the water of our holy baptism is and must be natural water, but when it has received sanctification and spiritual gifts through the invocation of God and the prayers of the Church, it can cure all the ailments of our souls. In times of old, infirmity hindered so many from receiving healing of their illnesses, but now there is nothing to keep us from being baptized. No longer does one man receive healing while others remain unhealed; rather, even if the whole world were to assemble around the font of Baptism, this pool of grace, the grace of that water would not be exhausted. It is superabundantly present, it remains inexhaustible; and though poured out, it always abounds, and though ever expended, it is never spent.
And there was a certain man there, that had been eight and thirty years under his infirmity. Him when Jesus had seen lying, and knew that he had been now a long time, he saith to him: Wilt thou be made whole? The infirm man answered him: Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond. For whilst I am coming, another goeth down before me.
My friends, what a model of patience this infirm man is. What a model of patience! Thirty-eight years had gone by; and with every passing year he waited to be freed from his illness, but always, always being prevented by those stronger and faster than he was; and yet he never gave up, he never lost hope.
For this reason the Lord questioned him wishing to know the patience of that man. Our Lord did not ask His question in order to find out something, since Our Lord knows all things as the Omniscient God. He knows. Besides, what sick man is there who does not wish for health? No, rather our Lord asks him this question so that He may give testimony to this man’s patience. And the infirm man replies with great contrition of heart, with meekness and humility, and he shows no disrespect at all to our Lord Who had asked him this question; he doesnot answer with blasphemy and embitterment, even after thirty eight years he is not bitter; he did not curse the day of his birth, as will so often happen with the fainthearted and the degenerate. Even when they come down with the least little ailments or difficulties, immediately comes the blasphemy. In today’s case rather, he responds calmly and honestly. He did not know Who it was that was questioning him; he understood only that our Lord desired to help him.
Jesus saith to him: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole: and he took up his bed, and walked.
My dear friends, the power of that command! The power of the word of the eternal Word Himself! Truly, the voice of God is a voice of power, as King David says in the Psalms: Lo, He will utter with His voice a voice of power. And now our Lord Jesus Christ said to the paralytic man, Rise, and straightway the command became a deed. The paralytic received strength from the word, and immediately he got up and walked.
But it is also to us, today, who are spiritually paralyzed, my friends, that Christ also says, Rise and walk. He says this to us, meaning that it is not enough for us simply to rise from our falls; we must also walk, through progress in the virtues, following the course of sanctification and grace, each and every day.
Christ wished to give proof here that a miracle had occurred, and thus He ordered the paralytic to pick up his bed. Immediately his limbs became strong and sound, so that he was able to carry his bed and walk. Furthermore, Christ performed the healing on the sabbath to teach us never to be idle, but to do good works always, and to give gifts at all times. But, as we read, the Jews crowded around the paralytic, and they say to him:
It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed.
And the paralytic man answers:
He that made me whole, he said to me, Take up thy bed, and walk. They asked him therefore: Who is that man who said to thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? But he who was healed, knew not who it was; for Jesus went aside from the multitude standing in the place.
We see that the formerly paralytic man – now healed – speaks openly of his Divine Benefactor, and he speaks with great boldness, saying, He Who made me well told me to do so.
Note that Jews did not ask him, “Who was it that made thee well?” “Who is it that has healed thee?” but rather, “Who was it that told thee to take up thy bed?” They are eaten up by envy, they did not even consider the good deed – the miracle – which had been worked, but rather opposed its proof, regarding it as a violation of the sabbath; seeking high and low for a way to condemn Christ and to bring Him into disrepute. They do not look at the miracles worked. They only want to know who it is that “told you to do this on the sabbath.” It is not so different today. Let those who have understanding take that to heart.
But we see that our Lord had withdrawn to another place, and He did so in order that the testimony given about the miracle not be considered suspect or forced. He let His deed be examined on its own and He let it bear witness to the truth. And the Jews, in examining the facts and then deriding them, only made Christ’s miracle better known.
Afterwards, Jesus findeth him in the temple, and saith to him: Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.
Here we return to the lesson that I mentioned today: that outward illness out to lead us to inward conversion, and it ought to. For illnesses can occur because of sin; moreover, some are a trial from God, as in the case of the Righteous Job this past week. One who has some understanding of God’s judgments gratefully bears the trials which befall him, seeing in them a means of healing, and not holding anyone else to blame for them, but keeping in mind only his own sins. The foolish, however, are ignorant of God’s most wise purpose; when they sin and are punished, they hold either God or other men to blame for their sins.
The chastisements of this life are lessons, whereas the punishments of the life to come will be eternal and unending torment. Those of us who commit many sins and are not punished in the present age, we ought to fear and tremble all the more, for our punishments and torments will be multiplied to the extent that we were spared suffering here in God’s great patience, if we do not repent. It is good for us to be chastised now, brethren, and to be purified in this life, rather than to be sent to those torment to come, when it will be time for judgement, not purification.
Therefore, let us not grumble, my friends, about any woes or adversities which may befall us. Rather, let us endure all things with thanksgiving, and let us hold fast to prudence in everything which comes to us from God. And let us indeed rejoice, for we are by the word of our Lord made free from the paralysis of sin.
Today Christ charges each and every one of us, as well, saying: Yesterday in sin you were confined to your bed, you were paralyzed, and you had no one to put you into the pool when the water was stirred up; but today, today you have found a Man Who is also God, and He says to you, arise; take up your bed, and walk, walk as much as you have the strength to do, walk in grace, walk in sanctification, walk in prudence and in charity, ever mindful of the words: Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more.