Glory to Jesus Christ!
Now we come to the end of the second week of the Great Fast, and by this time the novelty of the season has probably begun to wear off. That’s a good thing – novelty by its very nature only lasts a short amount of time, and in Lent our eyes are not to be set upon things which pass away, but on eternity and our relationship to it.
That’s not to say that we can not discover every day and every moment something new in the life of grace – for indeed the Lord makes all things new. But we ought to seek this renewal within ourselves – especially during this time of Lent – rather than seeking new things outside of ourselves. Exterior novelty entertains for a short time and then invariably fails. Interior renewal is the beginning of eternal life already in this life. As Saint Paul assured us in the Apostolic reading for today, “Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth: and the works of Thine hands are the heavens. They shall perish, but Thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the selfsame, and Thy years shall not fail.” Hold fast to the Lord, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We hear in the Gospel of our Lord healing the paralytic man whose friends had gone so far as to carry this man on his bed up to the top of the house where our Lord was speaking, then to lower this man from the very roof of the house, through the ceiling, down before the Lord, so great was the crowd of people who were there with the Lord. And our Lord did forgive his sins and heal him of the palsy. Recall what our Lord said to confound those who were grumbling against our Lord for daring to forgive sins: “[T]hat you may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine house. And immediately he arose; and taking up his bed, went his way in the sight of all; so that all wondered and glorified God, saying: We never saw the like.”
Indeed, the Son of Man does have power on earth to forgive sins – and it pleased our Lord that the proof of this is simply that the man – formerly sick of the palsy – should arise, take up his bed, and go into his house. Think on that one moment.
By theirselves, such actions as arising, taking up a bed, walking into a house… these are nothing out of the ordinary. They’re everyday actions. But here, we see these actions transformed into something that caused the entire multitude to wonder and to glorify God. They wondered and glorified God over the simplest of actions because one who was previously lame was now doing them and because he was able to do them simply by the word of the Lord who commanded it.
Everyday actions made extra-ordinary by the command of the Lord, carried out by those who were up until now incapable of such things. This is the lesson we are given, and this is the lesson that we are to live.
Our fasting, our penitential observances, our almsgiving, our generous undertaking of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy – all of these things are by themselves thoroughly unremarkable, really. We’re doing nothing new. In the eyes of the world, they have little significance – if any; and they certainly provide no entertainment value. You don’t see people lining up around the block in order to give alms.
And yet, it is precisely in those things that the greatness of God’s grace and power shines through. That one who has fallen day after day into the same temptations up until now now is able to overcome them, step by step during this Lent: this is a cause for wonder and glorifying God.
That one who has been miserly now starts cultivating generosity: again, wonder and glory to God!
We each of us have our own infirmities which trouble us. But we also have each other as true friends who will climb houses and remove roofs just in order to get us before our Lord so that He might heal us. We have to be friends to each other in this way, carrying each other in prayer over any obstacle so that even in our infirmities we might be placed in the healing hands of the Lord.
Let us then go forward, seeking not novelties but renewal; doing simple things in wondrous ways.