May 16, 2022

Third Homily for the Sunday of the Paralytic (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 20, 1951)

One evening, the Holy Prophet David was on the roof of his house, and from the height of the roof in the neighboring courtyard he saw an extremely beautiful woman bathing. He was inflamed with passion for her, and sent his servants to bring her to his house. The king questioned her and learned that she was the wife of Uriah, a brave warrior who fought against the Ammonites and the Syrians. He took her for himself. He called for the commander under whose authority Uriah was, and ordered to put Uriah in the most dangerous place and move away so that he would be killed. A messenger came from the field and reported what was done according to his word - and Uriah died.

Two grave sins were committed by the Holy Prophet David: adultery and murder. The Prophet Nathan came to him and rebuked him. Rebuking him, he told him this parable:

“There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him” (2 Sam. 12:1–4).

The rich man envied the poor man and took away his only lamb. Tell me, king, what will you do with this rich man?

David was inflamed with anger and exclaimed: execute him, execute him!

But Nathan objected: it is you, King David, you are the man who took the only lamb from poor Uriah.

King David was shocked: he suddenly realized the full depth of his fall, the full weight of his vile sin. And how did he behave, realizing his terrible sin?

“And David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord!'” (2 Kings 12:13).

He wrote that great Psalm 50 that you hear so often: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your great mercy and according to the multitude of Your compassion, cleanse me of my iniquity."

He wrote in another Psalm: “I am weary of my groans; every night I wash my bed, I wet my bed with my tears. My eyes have withered from sorrow, decayed from all my enemies” (Ps. 6:7-8).

Every night he shed tears, every night he soaked his bed with tears, tormented by repentance for his terrible sin.

And in another Psalm he wrote: “My heart is stricken and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. Because of the sound of my groaning my bones cling to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop. My enemies reproach me all day long; those who deride me swear an oath against me... I eat ashes like bread, and I dissolve my drink with tears...” (Ps. 101:4–8, 10).

This is how Saint David repented. And for such repentance he was forgiven by God.

I have already told you, even more than once, about the great miracle worker, the hermit James the Faster, who fell into a serious prodigal sin with a possessed girl who was brought to him for healing by her parents. He was horrified at his fall, he trembled, he wanted to hide his sin. He killed the girl, carried her on his shoulders and threw her into the river. He shuddered before the crime he had committed with all his being and fell into such despair that he wanted to go into the world. But he met an old hermit who convinced him that God's mercy is inexhaustible. Then he entered a tomb full of human bones, and spent ten years in it, day and night washing his soul with tears for two grave sins.

In one of my former flocks, I knew one unfortunate girl, full of piety and love for Christ, who constantly visited the temple of God and voraciously read the Gospel of Christ. And this poor girl was seduced and led into grave sin by a prodigal, very experienced adulterer, who specialized in corrupting pure and God-fearing girls and ruined many of them.

What happened to this poor girl! I watched and saw that she was shaken to such an extent that she was losing her mind and contemplating suicide. You know that I am a doctor and I can understand the pathological state of the human soul. I saw with fear that she was close to insanity, and observed the symptoms of impending insanity. But the Lord helped me stop this unfortunate girl: I showed her the path of tearful repentance and imposed on her a severe fast and constant prayer.

This is how we deal with all those who have gravely sinned, and by this we return them to the bosom of the Church, we return God's mercy to them when the heavy penances imposed by us have passed.

And the Lord had mercy on this poor girl.

This is what happens to a God-fearing person who loves Christ. For no one, no one is provided with a guarantee against such falls, the devil sometimes knows how to overthrow the ascetics of piety who have reached the top of the ladder of virtues.

And now I'll show you another woman.

A young married woman did not have enough money for her outfits, for pleasures, and in order to acquire this money, she entered into lawless cohabitation with a stranger whom she did not love at all. She committed serious adultery a long, long time.

When they told her about it, when they reproached her, she quite calmly answered: “Well, these are the material conditions. I do nothing wrong, I act like everyone else, as many do."

It was about such that the ancient sage Jesus the son of Sirach said: “I ate, wiped my mouth and said: I did nothing wrong.”

And she, the unfortunate one, thinks that she has done nothing wrong, selling her body, cheating on her husband!

This is what is happening in this soul!

This is no longer a single fall of a pious person, this is spiritual death in the true sense of the word.

People who say that, who act like that, have lost their conscience, lost their shame. They're forsaken, utterly forsaken by a God they don't believe in.

They themselves have left God, they do not pray to Him. They do not need the great mysteries of the Church, they do not need spiritual life, they do not need the grace of God received in spiritual perfection, for they do not think about anything spiritual - they think only about pleasing their vile flesh, stopping at nothing to please it.

You may say: "Well, if they do not believe in God, do not pray, they still have a conscience."

But they force their conscience to be silent, for it is possible to force it to be silent.

When a person falls into sin for the first time, then their conscience loudly denounces them, but if they do not listen to the voice of conscience, then this voice becomes quieter and quieter. They continue to sin, continue to defile their body and soul, and their conscience is already quietly, timidly whispering: leave it, leave it ... But they do not obey, they force their conscience to be completely silent. And the more they sin, the more they suppresses the voice of their conscience, the sooner they will achieve that it will be silent.

You will say, "How do such people not take into account public opinion, do they not care what people think about them, about their behavior?"

No, they reckon with public opinion, they are afraid of condemning this opinion. But there have been and are times in history when public opinion itself deserves condemnation, there are times when not a few, but many people do the same, are guilty of the same. Then everything multiplies and the number of those who are not ashamed of such a heinous sin as fornication and adultery multiplies. It becomes common in society. Everyone falls into these sins one by one, everyone becomes corrupted, and this general corruption leads to the fact that public opinion does not condemn the depraved. Corruption multiplies in an unfortunate people, and corrupts the hearts and minds of the people.

So it was in the great Roman Empire before its fall, before it was destroyed by barbarian hordes. Then there was indescribable debauchery, there was a general decline in morals; then humanity considered mercy to the unfortunate an unacceptable weakness. Then everything pure, everything good, everything holy was trampled. Then debauchery, lies and betrayal were raised to the level of a cult.

Now, if such a terrible time comes in any nation, in any state, it will be the same with them as with Rome.

You will say, "Well, did they really not have any consciousness of sin, any fear?" There was no fear of God, for they did not believe in God.

And there is also fear of people, of the law, which punishes criminals and thus stops many from committing a crime. Yes, everyone has this fear, but the trouble is that the law of every state punishes crimes against property, against personal rights, against robbery, theft, against unclean transactions. But the law does not interfere with morality, the law does not forbid fornication and adultery, and therefore, when this unfortunate woman has eaten and wiped her mouth, she has nothing to fear from the law.

And all the pious, all the good ones are not afraid of the law, for they do not commit crimes, but are afraid of God, and this fear of God keeps many of us from committing vile and dirty deeds.

There was a time when children were brought up from an early age in the law of God, in the fear of God. There are still such parents, such grandmothers, who care with all their hearts to instruct their children and grandchildren on the path of truth, on the path of goodness. Thank God there are more.

But those poor grandmothers! How often do they hear from their sons, from their daughters-in-law: do not interfere in the upbringing of my children, I will bring them up myself. Go to church yourself, if you wish, but leave my children, do not raise them in the fear of God.

And the fear of God stops many from vices. Prayer is not taught, and prayer is to the soul what bread and water is to the body.

A plant that is not watered dries up. The soul that does not pray, does not support itself with prayer, dries up, becomes dead.

Such people seem to be alive, but in fact they are dead, spiritually dead, because they live only for the sake of self-pleasing, pleasing their flesh, without thinking about anything spiritual.

And if a person is so unclean, if he lives without God, God leaves him.

Everything good that a person does, every step on the Christian path is the result of the grace of God acting in us. And by this grace we live and do not die. And those whom I called spiritually dead, those who are like this unfortunate woman who wiped her mouth and thinks that she did nothing wrong, are people doomed to eternal death.

Only in this is salvation for us, who wish to enter the Kingdom of God, by unceasing prayers, in order to attract God's help, God's grace by our repentance.

All those who are like this unfortunate woman are spiritually paralyzed.

You have heard in today's Gospel reading how the Lord healed the paralytic in the sheep's pool.

This paralyzed man lay paralyzed for thirty-eight years, unable to move his arms or legs.

There are many people who are spiritually paralyzed. The paralytic, whom the Lord had raised up, was waiting for healing at the sheep's pool, for God sent His angel to stir up the water, and whoever entered first was healed, no matter what illness he suffered.

And for us, this Bethesda, this sheep's pool serves as an image of another healing, not the one that was received once a year by entering the pool.

How are we healed now? What was the sheep pool a prototype of? A prototype of what the Lord Jesus Christ said on the day of Mid-Pentecost: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

Let only the spiritually paralytic turn to this source of life, and then rivers of living water will flow from his heart - he will be so filled with the grace of God, the knowledge of the one eternal truth, that in spite of his will, this grace-filled content of his soul will pour out, like rivers of living water, on those around him. The light of his soul will also shine on those unfortunates who are in the darkness of the ignorance of God.

The sheep's pool is at the same time a prototype of the great mystery of baptism, in which a person is washed from all his sins, for the one who is baptized comes out of the baptismal font justified, pure and bright.

This is offered to everyone, the Holy Church calls everyone, our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about everyone: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

O you unfortunate ones like this adulteress, O you people with a withered heart, O you people with a withered soul, at least now, at least in the last days, remember baptism, if you have not been baptized.

Remember that this is a great means of divine grace that will raise you from the dead and make you partakers of eternal life. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.