Homily for 4th Sunday of Pascha The Paralytic

Fourth Sunday of Pascha Homily


In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . . Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!


Brothers and sisters, today we are given an image of a healing of a man who had been laid low, paralyzed 38 years. It is apparent from the reading that the reason for the man’s illness was due to his sins. Because of his sins, the man is paralyzed, withered is the literal term in the Greek.  The Venerable Bede sees significance in the number of years of the illness.  38, 38 is just shy of the number 40 which is seen as the perfection of a righteous life.  Simply put the number 40 is reached by taking the 10 commandments and multiplying them by the 4 Gospels.  Venerable Bede says, “One who behaves in a way devoid of the love of God and neighbor, which scripture commends equally in the law and in the gospel, has two less than this perfection.” By living the Gospels and the teachings of the commandments wholeness is achieved.  Without these, man comes up lacking in the spiritual life. 38 not 40.

Taking this image one step further we could say that the man who is withered represents the people of Israel who had fallen short of the perfection of the righteous life.  The withered vine bears no fruit.  In fact the Fathers see all the people at the pool of Bethesda as representing the people of Israel.  The paralyzed man was not without hope, though, as the people of Israel were not without hope.  Each year, during the feast of the 50 days of Pentecost, an Angel would stir the waters of Bethesda which was the pool in which the sacrificial lambs were cleansed.  This is obviously a “type” or foreshadowing of the waters of baptism.  It is to this pool during the time of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, that the lame, the halt, the blind, the withered would eagerly go for healing. Venerable Bede writes that the  “multitude of ailing people . . . awaiting the movement of the water, signify the throngs of those, who, upon hearing the words of the law, were sorrowful because they could not fulfill it by their own powers, and so with all the devotion in their soul they besought the help of the Lord’s Grace.”   Pentecost was the feast which celebrated when the Law was given to the Jews; the people knew instinctively that the Law could not be fulfilled and that they needed Grace.

Only the first one to go into the troubled water was healed, though, and it is here that we have one of the most poignant images in the Scriptures.

The sick man is never the first into the water because he has no one to put him into the water.  Someone always steps ahead of him and reaches the water first as the withered man tries to make it to the water.  What an image that creates.  We can almost see the poor man dragging himself to the pool, but to no avail.

 Are we not all like those at the pool sometimes?  We can only see our own needs and pass by our brothers whose needs are far greater than our own.  Can you see how much our sins, our own illnesses, make us blind to others?  We too, as the Jews then, fall short of the perfection that Bede spoke of, the perfection of the Ten Commandments and the Four Gospels.  We too, as the Jews there, do not have the love of God and the love of neighbor.  We fall short of perfection and we run the risk of becoming the withered vine.  We are the lame, the blind, and the paralyzed.

“Do you want to be made well?” asks Our Lord.  “Sir, “answers the man, “I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”  How different this is from the Paralytic we heard about during the Second Sunday of Lent.  His friends carried him up to the roof and broke through it and lowered him down to the Lord.  There was friendship!  This poor man had no man to put him in the pool, though.  He had no man, no friend.

However, that is not true.  He did have a friend, though he did not know it.  Jesus said to him “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”  And the man did.

Elsewhere in the Gospel of John our Lord says, “You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”  The Lord is our friend who will raise us up and grant us healing.

The verses preceding the one I just quoted define further what a friend truly is:     “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love;. ... 12 This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (see St John 15:7-17)

Here we are shown what we must do to remain as friends of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ.  First we must remain faithful; we must abide in the Lord and in His love.  By this we glorify the Father and we bear much fruit.  We will be a fruitful vine, not the withered vine.  How do we abide in Him and His love?  We must keep his commandments.  How do we keep His commandments?  We must love one another as the Lord has loved us.  We must be able to put our own needs second and the needs of our brothers first.  We must lay down our life for our friends.

We cannot run to the water first while our brother drags himself to the pool at the Sheep’s Gate.  We must lift him up and put him in the water ahead of us.  Remember to be a disciple of the Lord means to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.  He who desires to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of the Lord will find it. (see Matt. 16: 24-25)  We will find our own healing by seeking the healing of others.  We will find that Christ is our friend when we are a friend to others, when we prefer the other to ourselves.  It won’t be easy, but if we do it right while we’re bearing the burdens of our brothers, when we have put our friends before us, they will be doing the same thing for us.








©2009 Fr. Philip Kontos