My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
When compared with the rest of the year, Lent is like a calm harbour in which we take refuge to find spiritual stillness.
This world is like a sea, and we are all each travelling in a ship, which is our earthly body. Now the sea of this world is dangerous, hazardous, and very wide. The expanse of this sea is as great as the extent of the whole time of our life. It is impossible to count how many waves and storms and perils befall us, either on account of the devils, or on account of other people who wish us harm, or – it must be stated quite openly – on account of our own passions, our own sins. The difficulties never cease to disturb us.
In order that we might be able to save our souls from the storm and the flood and from the waves of this vain life, and that we might reach a calm and saving harbour, we have need of many, many prayers. We have need of great compunction and contrition of heart. We have need of tears of repentance and confession of our sins.
Now, because the good God arranges and provides for all things in His wisdom, He has given us the present season of the Fast as exactly that kind of refuge we need, that we might strive to pass the remaining time of this life calmly and in peace, and to attain to the joy of life to come.
We hear in today’s Gospel of our Lord forgiving the sins and healing the man sick of the palsy, who, you’ll remember, is the one who, because of the great crowd in the house in which our Lord was teaching and healing at that time, was lowered down by friends through the very roof of the house. We see here a lesson in bearing one another’s burdens, about which we heard last week. See how necessary it is that we each provide for each other in our needs!
Now, the faith of those who carried the paralytic man and who had lowered him through the roof was great, but that of the paralytic himself was greater still. When our Lord saw the faith the sick man, He said unto him: Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
Now, of course, as the Gospel tells us, there were certain of the scribes sitting there, who thought within themselves, “Why is this man speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?”
But our Lord, Who indeed is God, immediately brought the thoughts of their hearts out into the open, and said to them, Why do ye think and bring to mind evil things in your hearts?
Here our Lord shows that He is God by His knowledge of their thoughts. For to know the thoughts of men’s hearts is proper to God alone, as the scriptures attest.
The Lord then rebukes the scribes, and by the physical healing of the man sick of the palsy He verified not only His great power to heal bodily, but also the truth of the forgiveness of sins wrought by the power and the word of the Lord Himself.
And that is just it, my friends, by His simple word our Lord wrought this two-fold miracle: the healing of body and of soul. But a word, a simple command.
The power of His command! The voice of God is truly a voice of power; as the scriptures attest.
We are now in our Lenten harbour, our retreat from the sea of worldly life. We are today called to calm ourselves just a bit, just ever so much, that the noise of the world – and the noise of our attachments to the world – will have receded. Have you ever experienced a storm? They’re loud, to say the least. Now, the storms of the sea of life are loud. Of course, they bring a great many trials, but above it all there is a constant noise, a spiritual chaotic noise such that we can hardly hear ourselves think, much less can we hear someone speaking to us.
But see, my friends: our Lord said to the paralytic, Arise, and immediately the command became a fact; as soon as the paralytic heard and perceived the power of the word, he arose and walked.
Christ speaks also to us, today, if we will just perceive His word. Christ speaks also to us, today, if we will just remove ourselves from the incessant over-riding noise of worldly cares, worldly attachments, worldly worries, disordered passions, disordered thoughts, disordered lives, and come to the safety and calm which is provided by undertaking the great Fast with compunction. Our Lord speaks, He speaks to us who are palsied in our souls. He says to us, today: Arise and walk. It is not enough for us simply to be raised up after our fall; we must also walk on the path of progress in virtue, following the spiritual course.
So let us, by the power of the word and command of Christ, do exactly that. Let us arise and walk. Let us not complain about the difficulties and sorrows which we may experience; but let us bear all things thankfully, and let us go on with a proper understanding of those things which come to us from God. For He knows that He arranges all things for our good, and He will allow afflictions and hardships to befall us for our improvement.
For God gives us every good gift and every perfect gift, and we ought ever to look to Him, to thank Him, to glorify Him and to exalt His holy name, but so often we are lazy and negligent in His praise. Willfully drowning out the divine voice with the noise of the world, we are not conscious of His good gifts and His gentle guidance. Instead, we spurn His divine will and commandments; we become arrogant and haughty, and we walk according to the will of our own hearts.
Therefore does God allow us to fall into the woes and afflictions which we have chosen by our actions, so that we might come to our senses, and call to Him, and trust in His saving power.
By His great goodness and His providence, we may ever seek His kingdom and its righteousness, and we may firmly believe that He will abundantly bestow upon us all things good and salutary. For God is good and loving not only when He gives us gifts; He is good even in His just punishments and chastisements.
For God is good by nature; He is the Giver of everything good, and it is His property and characteristic to care for His creatures. Having seen, then, what a great gift the paralytic received in today’s Gospel, let us also make haste to seek Christ with zeal and with fervent faith. Let us receive absolution of our sins. Let us entreat our Lord to heal and make strong our palsied souls and bodies, to remedy our senses, to rouse us up for deeds of virtue, to confirm us in leading a life according to the Gospel, and to make firm our steps. We must not only arise from sin, but we must also walk; that is, to exert our bodies to perform virtues and good works.
My dear friends, in the stillness and the calmness of this Fast, we must train our hearts. And when our hearts have seen and spiritually understood the many and great wonders done for us by our Lord, then we will have attained to true vision. The eyes of our heart will be open. Then will we begin rightly to glorify God Who works such wonders among us.