Sermon on the Sunday of the Paralytic - John 5:1-15.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
“I have no one to help me.”
It’s one of the most miserable phrases a person can say. It’s even worse than being terminally ill. If there is someone by the side of the terminally ill person, they can help that person by sharing in their pain, by being by them and providing comfort.
But having no one by your side, no matter if you are well or sick, must be one of the worst feelings possible.
The paralyzed man from today’s Gospel reading was both sick and alone, as miserable as he could be. He was paralyzed for 38 years and perhaps spent most, if not all of them, laying by this pool, hoping someone would drag him into the water to be healed. And no one paid any attention to him.
What a miserable life!
There are two reasons why a person might be completely neglected by everyone. One, he could be a really arrogant and self-loving person, who abused everyone, cared for no one all his life, and at the end was left all alone. Another reason could be that the society around that person is absolutely selfish and egotistical. A society that has been raised on the principal of “I, me, and mine.” A society that looks down on the weak and promotes only the strong.
We don’t know why the paralyzed man had no one to help him. Maybe he turned everyone away from himself with the life he led, maybe everyone around him was arrogant, or maybe both, but in the end, for 38 years he found no one who would show compassion and mercy.
But we do know that in this area around the pool, he was surrounded by selfishness and greediness. Evangelist John says in today’s reading that from time to time an angel of the Lord went down into the pool, stirred the water, and whoever stepped into the water first was healed.
One person at a time, yet this man, being paralyzed, was not able even to crawl to the pool. So he spent 38 years watching others being healed and found no one, no “religious” person to help him get into the water. As soon as others had an opportunity, they ran for themselves. It was probably something like on a black Friday, when the doors to Walmart are opened.
This selfishness exists very much today as well, and not just on black Friday. We are always in a hunt for more money, better career, easier life. We are always pushing our kids, sometimes even past their physical and metal abilities to be the best, whatever that means.
There is nothing inherently bad with having good career, enough money, and making sure our kids know everything, can play all sports and 10 musical instruments. But have we ever asked ourselves why we do all of these things?
For example, why we push our kids so hard? Is it because we want them to succeed in life or is it because we want to feel some sort of accomplishment in the end? Do we do things for them or for us, thinking that it is done for their own good? Do we sacrifice ourselves for them or sacrifice them for us?
Selfishness remains as strong today as among those waiting around the pool in Bethesda trying to be healed. Yes, we do show concern for others, and most of us do many good things, but when it’s a matter of “him or me,” more often than not the choice is … “me.”
It’s this selfishness that Christ came to abolish. The commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves was not introduced by Christ. It was not a new teaching. That commandment was given to the Jews long ago through Moses. But they forgot about it. Christ came not just to remind them about it, but to explain it properly and give a perfect example of how loving your neighbor as yourself is achieved.
To love our neighbor is to serve him like Christ served His disciples when He fed them and washed their feet. To love our neighbor is to show compassion to him, when no one else does, like Christ showed compassion to the paralyzed man. And ultimately, to love our neighbor is to sacrifice ourselves for him, like Christ sacrificed Himself for us on the Cross.
We are both the paralyzed man, who wants to be healed, and those who can help him, no, not to heal him, but to bring him so Someone Who can heal him.
“I have no one to help me,” said the paralytic because no one loved him until the Lord came to him. Christ was the first one to show him compassion. This same compassion He shows to us, when we ask Him for healing. This same compassion Christ is teaching us to show to others, so that among our family members, among our friends, among whoever God sends our way, there would not be anyone who says, “I had no one to help me,” but that they would rather say, “They helped me. And I saw Christ in them, in their actions and in their person.”