IN those days, Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, and it was reported that He was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door, and Jesus was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to Him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him, and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in His spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves, and He said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” - He said to the paralyzed man - “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
As you read and contemplate this reading, notice a things:
1. Notice who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus? Obviously he could not move on his own, so he needed help. He was "carried by four of them." These four must have been his friends because they did everything to ensure that their paralyzed friend gets an audience with the Lord.
2. After destroying someone's roof (this part always gets me - they actually took the roof apart. Yes, the roofs in those days were flat, still, they had to drag their friend up there and then break the roof!) they lowered the mat with their friend, and two unexpected things happened - "Jesus saw their faith," meaning the faith of the four, and He forgave the sins of the paralyzed man.
These two points are very important because it shows that through our faith, our good works, God helps and heals those around us. Isn't it amazing? Have faith, practice it, work on it. And, pray that God send you the same friends as the four, who would make every effort to help you.
Jesus did not heal the paralyzed man right away. The four friends went through all the trouble, breaking someone's roof only to hear, "Your sins are forgiven you." What?! Sins?! He's paralyzed, make him walk again! The general Christian teaching and understanding is that our sins (and we all have them) are not the direct cause for our physical ailments. Just like physical illness does not necessarily mean that we are spiritually sick, that is sinful. There is no direct connection, but there is some connection nonetheless. If we neglect our spiritual life, if we abandon prayer, fasting, confession, daily examination of our soul, and most importantly communion with Christ, it will have affect on us physically. In the same way, if we don't take care of our God-given physical bodies we will unavoidably damage our spirit.
Fasting is a great way to maintain both body and soul. Any dietician will tell you that abstaining from some foods, like meat and dairy, at least on some regular basis helps your body to recharge and cleanse. But fasting is about more than just food, fasting also involves an intensified prayer life. By intensified I mean doing slightly more than you usually do, in hopes of maintaining it and building on it. It does not mean going from having little to no personal prayer rule to going to church every day for 2-3 weeks. You'll just crash and burn like that. It does mean increasing your prayer rule a bit. For example, if you have specific prayers that you say daily, add to them a chapter from the Bible. If you already read the Bible, add another chapter. The point is to have something that is doable and still remains a prayer.
3. "Which is easier to say...?" This is a great question. In the time when people did not throw around words like we tend to today, a spoken word meant something, contracts were agreed upon a spoken word. In our time, when even written, notarized, and sealed contracts can be broken, a word has very little value. So, it is easier to say anything we want. But the question becomes - can we follow up on it? Can we talk the talk and walk the walk? Do not throw your words around. Hold to these two main principles - speak the truth and mean what you say.
Yours in Christ,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest