St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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Weekly Message 03-15-09: Second Sunday Of The Great Fast

Second Sunday of the Great Fast

In Capernaum, our Lord works so many signs and miracles the witnessing people should have all been delivered from perdition, but all they wanted was what they wanted and it certainly was not salvation, even though as the Scripture witnesses, they "have never seen anything like this" Mark 2: 12.

St. Matthew's gospel also witnesses for us "The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel" Matthew 15: 31. Sick people by the hundreds were brought to our Lord. Some of them were sufferers of lifelong handicaps; others were simply ill. Whether blind, deaf, lame, paralyzed or profusely bleeding, Jesus compassionately healed them all. Whether they stood before him or were miles away, the touch of the Lord changed their lives. Jesus demonstrated an uncanny sense of what really ailed people. And sometimes it was not obvious.

Jesus heals. He used various but not random means. As we see, Jesus carried out his healing ministry in a way that always indicates his mastery and purpose. Everyone of his healing acts conveyed compassion and certainly far more. Unfortunately, many did not use their senses to see or their ears to hear when they witnessed the purposeful miracles and signs of the Lord. Today we relish the marvels of Jesus' power and revel in the message it delivers to us. He communicates with his healing touch which is why we must be here every Sunday and holy day to be touched, to be healed in flesh, mind, soul and body. In Capernaum they wanted to be touched so desperately that they took away a section of the roof in the house where the Lord was teaching simply so they could get near him. Fortunately in our parish church we do not have to take down doors or remove rafters to be with him. So, are we here every opportunity we receive. which the Lord is still eager to provide?

How often in cases of illness and spiritual as well as physical brokenness, we are reminded of the announcement of the Lord in his first public homily, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because ... he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted" Luke 4: 18. When the Prince of Peace came into this dark world, He did not come in a private way. He tells us that He came not to see and be seen, but to "seek and save that which was lost," as well as to "heal the brokenhearted." Both the paralyzed man and those who were concerned about his welfare were no doubt brokenhearted and thus their concern for imminent healing brings them directly to the source of healing. And in face of this announcement it is a genuine mystery to me why those who have broken hearts over illnesses and physical fracturing, reveal themselves to rather continue to carrying them year in and year out than just bring them to the Great Physician. Unless we are bed-ridden, we ought be in church, in his presence, to be touched and healed by him. How many people surrounding us are just going down to their graves with a broken heart because they are overwhelmed with life and don't do anything about it. They carry in their hearts weighed with trouble for years and years, and even when they hear from Scripture He is among us in a special way, that He came among us to heal broken hearts, they do not respond. They live like they cannot hear. Perhaps people in general do not respond because we ourselves do not know what to do with the grace that is given us! We are not like the people of that small town on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee who immediately brought their troubled friend to the Lord.

We have healing services, we have holy day Liturgies for our benefit and now during the Great Fast we remember in prayer our beloved departed. Where are you when all this is taking place? What is so important, or better still, what is more important during this holy season? Our Lord left heaven and all its glory to come among us, to come into the world, sent by the eternal Father. He tell us it is for the purpose of healing the broken hearted. Is it because we don't want to be healed; is it because we think we are exceptions? Or is it because we do not believe the Lord and his message? We must all ask ourselves: If it is true we are eager to build a new church, what are we going to do with it when it is finally here? Are we then going to ignore it like so many ignore this little chapel? Are we not going to waste our time filling its pews each Sunday and every other opportunity we have to fill them?

"When Jesus saw the faith of these people, He said to the paralyzed man, "Young man, your sins are forgiven." Mark 2: 5. Jesus is moved by the paralytic and his friends. Perhaps the Lord will also be moved, if we are here each time we are supposed to be here. So He applauds us, if not with his hands, at least with his heart. And not only does He applaud, He blesses and we witness a divine loveburst. I am still waiting to witness a loveburst from the hands of our God because of your responding and overwhelming belief and faith which can only happen if we are here to demonstrate it. The friends of the man want the Lord to heal him. But Jesus won't nettle for a simple healing of the body; He wants to heal the soul as well. He leapfrogs as it were the physical and deals with the spiritual. Too many of us want to leapfrog the spiritual and emphasize the physical so we skip church and we skip Christ and we skip the needs of our soul while skipping in the process the healing we are entitled to if properly disposed. So we become losers because to heal the body is temporal but to heal the soul is eternal.

The request of the friends is valid, but timid. The expectations of the crowd are high, but not high enough. They expect Jesus to say, "I heal you." Instead He says, "I forgive you." They expect him to simply treat the body, for that is what they see. He chooses to treat not only the body, but also the soul, for that is what they do not see. They want Jesus to give the man a new body so he can walk; Jesus wants to impart grace so the man can live. Remarkable event this gospel message! If God is so touched by what He sees that He gives us what we need and not simply that for which we ask, what will He give us if we approach him with genuine faith!

What could be easier to believe, more reasonable to accept a man when He comes and tells us that He is sent from the eternal Father to heal the diseases of our soul and in order that we may believe him, He heals all sorts of men, at all times, of all manner of diseases, by a touch or a word? He plainly shows that He can do it all; that He will separate the disease from us. He tells us that He will deliver us from spiritual and eternal death and even from temporal death, that He will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life, so that we might live with him forever. If we accept and believe him in the life and death issue, why do we not believe him in the healing issue?

To prove all this, He imparts sensible evidence He has power over our lives by not only prolonging life, but even restoring us after we are dead, and besides, He rises from the dead himself! He tells us He will bestow heavenly glory on us and will translate us to heaven. And to confirm this belief, He tells us that we shall see him after his death as He ascends into heaven to return to the Father. What more could we desire from this God-man, from our God who comes from heaven and has all this power, simply demonstrated for our sake, that He uses heavenly power to lead us into paradise if we would only believe and be here with him to share the gifts of heaven here on earth!

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