On this first Sunday of the second month of the Coptic year, the church reminds us that our salvation is not mere ideas about God, but is in true participation in Him.
That is precisely what happened to the paralyzed man in today’s gospel lesson. The Lord did not simply convey ideas to Him, but instead shared His divine power by restoring him to health, both spiritually and physically. At the root of all human corruption is our sin, which weakens and sickens us all, and the Savior showed His divinity by forgiving the man’s sins. Christ then enabled the man to rise up and walk as evidence that He has the authority to forgive sins as the Son of God.
This healing also shows what it means to be infused with the gracious divine power of Christ, for the paralyzed man experienced freedom from bondage and a miraculous transformation of every dimension of his life. He did not simply hear words or receive a diagnosis, for the Lord healed him inwardly and outwardly.
“ The physician’s art, heals the diseases of the body; wisdom frees the soul from its obsessions. But the good Instructor, Wisdom, who is the Word of the Father who assumed human flesh, cares for the whole nature of his creature. The all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Savior, heals both body and soul conjointly. “Stand up,” he commanded the paralytic; “take the bed on which you lie, and go home”; and immediately the paralytic received strength”- St Clement of Alexandria
This miracle speaks to us all, of course, because we are sinners paralysed by our own actions and those of others. We have made ourselves so sick and weak that we do not have the strength to eradicate the presence of evil in our lives. Just think for a moment of how easily we fall into words, thoughts, and deeds that we know are not holy. Our habitual sins have become second nature to us; left to our own resources we are no more able to make them go away than a paralysed man is to get up and walk.
The good news is that Jesus Christ comes to every single one of us with forgiveness and healing. Too often, we are willing only to ask for forgiveness, but not to rise, take up our beds, and walk. In other words, we fail to see that being infused with the gracious divine power of Christ is not a matter of simply being excused from paying a penalty or declared not guilty; instead, it is truly a calling to become who we are created to be in God’s image and likeness. It is to be healed from all the ravages of sin and to shine with the light of holiness as we participate by grace in the life of the Holy Trinity.
No, we do not have to become monks and nuns in order to do that. But we do need to do everything that we can to open ourselves to the healing power of God. When we pray, fast, give to the needy, and practice forgiveness and reconciliation, or any other act of truth faithfulness or repentance, we do so in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, alive and active in us. Even the smallest bits of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” that we experience are the fruits of the Spirit’s presence. (Gal. 5:22) We should cherish them as such and do what we can to help them grow and become characteristic of our lives and personalities.
The truth is that if we want to know Christ’s healing and strength, we have to obey His commandments, for He calls us all to get up and move forward in a holy life.
“Take up your bed. Carry the very mat that once carried you. Change places, so that what was the proof of your sickness may now give testimony to your soundness. Your bed of pain becomes the sign of healing, its very weight the measure of the strength that has been restored to you.”
In order to do that, we have to welcome and cooperate with our Lord’s mercy. Think of going to the doctor yourself. We’re glad to hear that there’s a cure for our ailments, but that 'knowledge will do us no good unless we participate in the treatment. We have to take our medicine and do our therapy if we want to benefit personally.
“You have been a paralytic inwardly. You did not take charge of your bed. Your bed took charge of you” – St Augustine
How sad it would have been for the formerly paralysed man to have disobeyed the Lord’s command and simply stayed in bed. How sad that we so often do precisely that in our refusal to cooperate with Christ’s healing and mercy by obeying Him. let’s leave our sick beds behind and do all that we can to participate more fully in the healing mercy that the Saviour brings to each and every one of us.