Healing of the Paralytic. 2nd Sunday of Great Lent. Questions.

A few pertinent questions and answers from a longer set about the healing of the paralytic at the sheep's pool.

 


QUESTION 1

 

 

In the scriptures, physical afflictions like paralysis, blindness, and leprosy often indicate or point to an even more serious problem. What is it?


Physical afflictions are often an indicator or reminder of the more serious affliction that besets all men – sins, and the passions which are the major cause of them. Our passions are like blindness or paralysis, because they impair our ability to live a righteous life, and cause us to miss the knowledge of God, as a blind man cannot see and a paralyzed man cannot go where he wants. This connection between the passions and sin and physical afflictions is well known in the mind of the church. This is not to say that sin always CAUSES physical afflictions. This is possible, however, in every case, afflictions are a reminder of our primary affliction and need for God.

Our Lord makes the connection between sin and afflictions repeatedly. In many cases, He forgave a man's sins before he healed him of his physical infirmity, to affect a complete healing and regeneration of the man. In other cases, he healed someone of their physical infirmity first, then later enlightened them concerning Himself (such as in the case of the man born without eyes), or reminded them about sin, which is their major affliction. One could say, and reclaim a highly charged word, that he is a "holistic" healer. The whole concept of healing and well being is profoundly different in the mind of the church than anywhere else. Physical infirmity is recognized as sometimes grievous, and sometimes as a great blessing, but healing from any infirmity is tied closely with the entire healing of soul and body that all Christians should seek.

As of old Thou didst raise up the paralytic, O Lord God, / by Thy God-like care and might, / raise up my soul which is palsied / by diverse sins and transgressions / and by unseemly deeds and acts, / that, saved I may also cry out: / O Compassionate Redeemer, O Christ God, // glory to Thy dominion and might. (Kontakion for the Sunday of the Paralytic, Tone 3)

Let us site some examples of how Christ ties physical healing to the entire spiritual healing of a man.

  • Healing from sins, then physical infirmity:

    "And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. … {6} But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. (Matthew 9:2,6, also recounted in Mark and Luke)

  • Healing from physical infirmity, then enlightenment:

    "And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. {12} And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off.. {14} And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. {15} And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, {16} And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. {17} And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? {18} There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. {19} And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." (Luke 17: 11,14-19)

    "{1} And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. … {6} … He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, {7} And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. …{35} Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? {36} He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? {37} And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. {38} And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:1-38, parts)

    "After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {2} Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda … {5} And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. {6} When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? … {8} Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. {9} And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked… {14} Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee". (John 5:1-15, parts)


  QUESTION 2

According to the scriptures, the witness of the fathers, and the overall mind of the church, what are at least two causes or reasons for physical infirmities?


 

It is clear that physical infirmities are sometimes because of a man's sins. The story of the healing of the paralytic shows this truth, as Jesus warns the man about his sins when He finds him in the temple. Some sins directly cause infirmity, such as smoking or alcohol abuse, or promiscuity. Sometimes sins cause physical infirmity in a less direct way, and the Fathers understand these afflictions to be a call to repentance of the erring man.

In some cases, however, there is no sin in a man's life, but the affliction is present for his edification and enlightenment, and sometimes to show the glory of God, whether the man is eventually healed, as was the case in the man born blind, or bears up under his infirmity with courage, patience and thanksgiving, as was the case in Lazarus, who lay at the gate of the rich man.

" A FEARFUL thing is sin, fearful, and the ruin of the soul, and the mischief oftentimes through its excess has overflowed and attacked men's bodies also. For since for the most part when the soul is diseased we feel no pain, but if the body receive though but a little hurt, we use every exertion to free it from its infirmity, because we are sensible of the infirmity, therefore God oftentimes punisheth the body for the transgressions of the soul, so that by means of the scourging of the inferior part, the better part also may receive some healing." (ST John Chrysostom, Homily 38 on John)

"'What then,' saith one, 'do all diseases proceed from sin?' Not all, but most of them; and some proceed from different kinds of loose living, since gluttony, intemperance, and sloth, produce such like sufferings. Ibid.

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