Sermon on the reading from Mark 2:1-12.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
A great lesson we hear today from the Gospel reading. Jesus was teaching at someone’s house, and the house was packed, no standing room, all seats taken.
Four men bring their paralyzed friend to see this Miracle-worker by the name of Jesus, but there is no way they can get anywhere close to Him. So what do they do? Turn around and go home, right? There is no way for them to get through the crowd.
But no! They decide to climb onto the roof, with their paralyzed friend, take the roof apart and lower down their friend. They didn’t have two- or three-story houses back then, but still, imagine dragging your friend up someone’s roof, then taking it apart?
And Christ did exactly what they expected He would do, He healed the young man. But how did He do it? This is the most amazing part about today’s reading.
We can imagine that Jesus was as amazed by the perseverance of the four friends as anyone in that house. Christ looked at the paralyzed man and then looked up at his friends and said, “Because of your faith he is healed.”
Nothing is mentioned about the faith of the paralyzed man. Maybe he didn’t even want to be there. Maybe he was content with his situation that he’ll spend the rest of his days paralyzed. Maybe he was sick and tired looking for someone to make him right.
But not his friends. They were not giving up. We don’t know, but maybe for them it was also a last resort. If this great Preacher, they were hearing about, couldn’t help their friend, maybe they would have given up as well. But they kept trying, to the point of breaking someone’s roof.
It’s not a coincidence that we hear this Gospel lesson during Lent, when we are called to work on our love for others, when we are called to charity, and to help those who need our help.
Today our Lord shows us that our faith, our prayers, our care and concern for others can have real affects on their lives. Because of our faith someone else can be saved.
But what does it mean, how can someone be affected in a positive way by my faith? I think that I have faith. It is sloppy, at times questionable, mostly weak, but I believe that I do have faith in Christ. Yet I don’t know of anyone who has been healed or saved because of my faith.
So how does it work? How can my faith influence anyone? Recall the words of Christ mentioned in the Gospel of St John, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, because without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
A very beautiful image – God is the tree and we are His branches. So long as we are connected to the tree, we are capable of producing fruit, but if we are cut off, just like any branch, we wither away and die off.
So, even if we believe in Christ, we still can do nothing without Him. We can achieve nothing, certainly not helping others, at all, by ourselves. If we hold on to the idea that we can do at least a little bit on our own, the Lord does not interfere. God gave us free choice, which He absolutely respects.
If we want to be on our own and work on our own, without asking for God’s help, then He will let us do that. But in that case we are probably likely to do more harm than good. But when we surrender to Christ, then all things are possible with Him. (Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27).
Surrendering, giving up, is not something we are raised with. Everything in the society tells us “never give up,” “do your best,” “your life is in your hands.” We are taught that surrendering is a sign of weakness, that only losers give up.
Our faith, Christianity, is built on surrender. Doing God’s will, following Christ’s commandments means surrendering our will, giving up our life.
As long as our will remains, we won’t be able to fully follow Christ, to do His work in this world, to be the fruitful branch. Every time we pray Our Father, we say, “Thy will be done.” Your will, O God, not mine, because every time I follow my will, I fall down and keep doing the wrong thing – instead of loving others, I despise them; instead of charity, greed takes over me; instead of helping others, I pretend to not notice their need.
Knowing this, Christ gives us an example of complete surrender. He became man, lived among us, for one reason – to do the will of His Father. And that will was for Him to die. And don’t think just because Jesus is God, it was easy for Him. He was as human as we are, and experienced the same fears that we do. Right before the betrayal by Judas, Christ was praying in the Garden with these words, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39).
This doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do anything and just wait for God to do everything for us – get us money, do our dishes and laundry, and raise our children. No, we still have to do all of these everyday things, but we do them with God’s will, with Christ on our mind all the time, with His voice fueling our actions.
With Christ, surrender changes from a sign of weakness to the sign of victory. His surrender led to death on the Cross, but His death led to victory over death and our salvation. With Christ, helping others, like the four men helped their paralyzed friend, becomes a miracle, even when we don’t necessarily see it right away.
During this Lent, may we learn to say, “O Lord, I surrender myself to You to do with me as You will. Grant that I may become a healing presence to others.”