The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (9:1-8)
Today we hear the gospel passage about a paralyzed man and those who loved him. We are told that Our Lord Jesus Christ saw the faith of those who came bringing the paralytic and upon seeing their faith He said to the paralyzed “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
I hope that we do not quickly gloss over that beautiful sentence. I have found it to be one of the most powerful in all of the gospels. These words offered to this man in his time of sorrow and tribulation are not only for him. They are words that the Lord offers to each of us.
After all, the Lord Jesus came to redeem all of us. He came to offer Himself as a sacrifice for all. He came to offer each and every one of us forgiveness by blotting out our sins upon the holy wood of the cross.
One of the aspects of sin that we don’t often realize or understand is that the life of sin is a life of paralysis. Sin troubles us in such a way that it can make it very hard for us to move in the right direction, to love Go and to serve Him and to serve others. Sin has a crippling effect in our lives.
We want to do good, yet the sinful inclinations within us, make it seem impossible. And yet, we hear the words of the Lord as words of power and comfort for all believers. These words “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” are not simply a promise, they are a reality for the one who has faith.
How do we enter into this reality? We do it first through humility. We pray humbly, we repent and ask Christ to remove our sins, daily…sometimes with tears! St. Nikolai Velimirovich said,
“Repentance is the abandoning of all false paths that have been trodden by men’s feet, and men’s thoughts and desires, and a return to the new path: Christ’s path. But how can a sinful man repent unless he, in his heart, meets with the Lord and knows his own shame? Before little Zacchaeus saw the Lord with his eyes, he met Him in his heart and was ashamed of all his ways.”
We ask the Lord, the Holy Spirit to renew our souls and raise us up again. We make friends with the Jesus prayer and say it as often as we can; “Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy on Me, the sinner.”
Next we come with this disposition to the Church. The Church, the mystical body of Christ, offers this reality of Christ’s forgiveness because it was given to her by Him. The bride owns and takes part of everything that belongs to the Bridegroom. She cannot offer what is not hers, but she can certainly offer what has been shared with her. So the Church continually offers us the forgiveness of our sins. How?
First through the sacrament of confession. St. Issac the Syrian once said “The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses his pain is near to health.” We come and we humble ourselves and confess our sins. This is doesn’t apply only to lay people but to everyone including the clergy. We all need confession.
We need to feel the pain and self-emptying that comes from opening our hearts and humbling ourselves before the Lord. We need to feel the touch of Christ through the priest, laying his hand upon our heads and praying the prayers of absolution, offering the forgiveness of the Lord Himself.
We know this to be the case because the Lord gave this as a gift when He breathed upon His disciples after the resurrection and said “receive the Holy Spirit, whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained.”
In addition to these marvelous gifts, we also receive healing of our sins through the frequent reception of Holy Communion. In Matthew 26 when the Lord sits down for the mystical supper He says “Take, eat; this is my body” and “Drink of this blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
So we have amazing treasures here within the Church. People wait in long lines to see movies and shows. I remember seeing people who waited and camped for 3 weeks before the release of the new Star Wars movies. How sad! They focused their entire energy and their life on a silly movie.
When the movie was over, they were still in their sins! The movie didn’t have anything to offer them other than a distraction for 2 short hours. Yet, here in the Church, God offers each of you a treasury of spiritual gifts. The Lord offers you the gift of life through the sacraments of the Church.
It is so easy for us to get down on ourselves. To feel that we can never overcome our deeply rooted sinful desires. In truth, Satan and his army would like you to feel hopeless. The goal is to make you feel completely and utterly paralyzed by your past sins and your sinful inclinations.
Yet the Lord’s words can be a comfort to us “Take heart.” The Lord offers each of us a way forward. Only believe in this gift and run with your whole heart towards our merciful Savior and you will receive it because it is God’s good pleasure to share life with you. “Ask and it will be give to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened for you!”
This is the way to a living relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ. A way that we see modeled for us in the lives of the saints. It is God’s good pleasure to raise you up and free you from your sins.
May we turn from what is false in our lives so that we might hear these beautiful words “Take heart, my child, your sins are forgiven!” And Glory be to God forever