Word Magazine April 1981 Page 16
Homily By Father James C. Meena
When the paralytic was lowered through the roof in order that Jesus might see and have compassion on him, the first action of Jesus was to assure him of his salvation. He said, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the community leaders, upon hearing Him, were upset. “Who can forgive sins except God only?” they asked. Jesus seeing their lack of faith and knowing that they could only be convinced by seeing something with which they could identify said to the man, “Take up your bed and go thy way into thine own house.” (St. Mark, 2:1-12) These sinful people could not accept on faith the regeneration that God had promised them by the Prophets and which had now become Incarnate in their midst though they saw something tangible.
Many of us challenge God in this way. We say we understand that He promised salvation and eternal life to those who follow after Him in faith but we want to see things tangibly so that we can have undeniable proof of the power of God. Although Jesus gave those doubters the proof they required He did so in order to draw a lesson for us, that lesson being that the promise of salvation has nothing to do with the corruptibility of his flesh or with reversing the natural, biological degeneration of the body. Oh yes, there are times when God does intervene with the natural processes and does perform a miracle for reasons known only to Himself.
Now God made a promise to us. When He came down and confronted us face to face, when He took on humanity with all the pain and temptations thereof God, Who could feel no pain and Who could suffer no temptations, cloaked Himself in the garments of our weakness in order that He might manifest that promise of life eternal for all those who believe in and adhere to Him. St. Paul says, “If a promise that was made through angels proved to be so true that every infringement and disobedience brought its own proper punishment, then we shall certainly not go unpunished if we neglect this salvation that is promised to us. The promise was first announced by the Lord Himself and is guaranteed to us by those who heard Him.” (Hebrews 2:2-3) What is the promise? “Whosoever believeth in Me though he were dead yet shall he live.” (St. John 11:25) What was the promise? “Verily I say unto you whosoever hears My words, and believes on Him that sent Me, shall have everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death until life.” (St. John 5:24) What is the promise? “All whom my Father has given me will come to me and him who comes to me I will not cast out, I will never reject one of them who comes to me.” (St. John 6:37) What is the promise? “In My Father’s House are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so I would have told you.” (St. John 14:2) Promises manifested in statements that our Lord made to His disciples and apostles and which have been handed down to us through hundreds of years of the life of the Church which He came to establish.
However, there is a condition to that promise as in the statement from John 6:37. The condition is an act of will and commitment on the part of the individual. Our salvation has been assured by the blood of Christ on the Cross when He wiped out all of our debts and threw open the gates of Paradise for anyone who really wants to enter, but the act of will is that our lives must be changed and submitted to Him unconditionally. The commands of God and His requirements in Christ are that we pray, fast, worship, do good works and fulfill the ministries that He has laid upon us by His example as by His teaching.
Can we put a limit on God who is infinite? How dare we then put any kind of limitations on the ministries which are given to us from the God who has no limitation, Who transcends space and time and all the measuring concepts of humanity? I say it can’t be done. I say with John Chrysostom that God who loves us promised us salvation but because He loves us He also promised us punishment.
God does not punish us because He hates us or because He is angry with us. We ask ourselves why there are wars and pestilence and earthquakes and tragic calamities. If God really loves us why does He allow these things to happen? Well, according to the fathers of the Church, it is precisely because He loves us that He permits these things, that it is Satan who tries to convince us that God hates us and this is why He allows these things to happen. Satan also beguiles us into thinking that God is so meek and mild that it is not possible for Him to punish humanity. But which of you loving parents, seeing your child being wayward would not punish him, not unto death, not to extremes physically, emotionally or intellectually, but you would punish him as severely as you felt he must be punished. So it is with God. And while it goes beyond our understanding, I think God loves us perfectly and wishes to impress upon us how much more important is His promise of salvation that the healing of the body or the raising of the paralytic from his bed, that He permits these things.
Chrysostom says, “When man, then, had been deceived by the wicked demon. Let us observe how God treated him, after he had committed so grave a sin. Did He altogether destroy him? No, He did not. Yet the sin in justice demanded this, that man who had displayed nothing that was good, but after enjoying so much favor had waxed lustful even from the very first, should have
been done away with and utterly destroyed. Yet God did not act in this manner, neither did He regard with disdain him who had been so ungrateful . . . but He comes to him as a physician comes to a sick man. He did not send angels to minister to us but He came to us one to one,” face to face, that He might give us the Salvation Promised, the Salvation Assured. (Homily VII — Statutes)