May 7, 2023

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

 By St. Luke of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 27, 1945)

On the fourth Sunday after Pascha, the Holy Church commemorates the great miracle of the healing of the paralytic. That is why it is called the Sunday of the Paralytic. You heard the Gospel reading about this miracle (see John 5:2–15). But did you pay attention to how the person healed by the Lord Jesus Christ reacted to his healing and to his Divine Benefactor? He did not know who healed him, and to the question of the enemies of Christ, the scribes and Pharisees: "Who is the Man who said to you: 'Take up your bed and walk?'" - he answered: "I do not know." But then the Lord met him in the temple and said: "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (John 5:12-14).

What did the healed man do? He immediately went to the chief priests and reported that it was Jesus who healed him. The healing took place on the Sabbath. And for all the deeds of Christ performed on the Sabbath, the scribes and Pharisees burned with fierce anger at Him and sought to destroy Him as a violator of the law of Moses. And so the one whom He raised up from the bed of a grave illness, assisted them, showing terrible ingratitude to his Great Benefactor.

At every thanksgiving service you hear the Gospel reading about ten lepers healed by Christ. Nine of them showed terrible ingratitude. Only one, a Samaritan, came and fell at the feet of the Lord, thanking Him. The Lord only asked: "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? How did they not return to give glory to God, except for this foreigner?" (Luke 17:17-18). Ingratitude is a property of so many human hearts. The holy prophet Isaiah speaks of the ingratitude of the people of Israel to God, who has chosen this people and poured out His countless blessings on them, setting as an example dumb animals that have affection for their master: "The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:3).

We can be reproached by the example of many who do not belong to the Church of Christ, Muslims and Jews, for life has shown me that these people, who do not know Christ, are sometimes much more grateful to their benefactors than the Orthodox. And we Christians need to learn from these non-Christians, and even from animals. How touchingly grateful animals are for every good deed rendered to them.

In the life of Saint Gerasimos, who lived near the Jordan, an amazing story is told. Once he saw a lion lying on the dirt and licking a paw into which a splinter fell, and the beast could not remove it and suffered greatly. Saint Gerasimos went up to it and took out the splinter. Then what? Since then, the lion was attached to Saint Gerasimos with extraordinary gratitude and until the death of the ascetic did not leave him. And when Saint Gerasimos died, it lay down on his grave, and was deeply sad, and in the end it also died.

I know a case when a doctor found a sick dog on the road, took it with him and cured it. It was as immensely grateful to the gracious doctor as the lion of Saint Gerasimos: all its life it followed him and more than once brought sick dogs to him, silently asking him to cure them.

Why are people ungrateful? Why do they so often return evil for good and often slander their benefactors? Ingratitude is based on selfishness, for those who are favored often do not see anything special in this. They have a high opinion of themselves, think little of and do not care about others, believing that everyone is obliged to pay attention to them, and therefore they consider any good deed as nothing and take it for granted. There are even people who are even more corrupt and proud, to whom good deeds are unpleasant. As long as they need something, they walk and bow low and ask for help; and when they receive help, instead of gratitude, irritation and anger boil in their hearts. They are oppressed by the fact that they had to ask that a noble person was found to help them. And they don't think to thank him. Moreover: sometimes their hearts are so hardened, that the feeling of offended pride breeds hatred for the benefactor.

The wise Jesus, the son of Sirach, said beautifully about ungrateful people who receive help in need: "Many consider a loan a godsend and cause grief to those who helped them. Until he receives it, he will kiss his hand, and because of the money of his neighbor, his voice will humble. And in the time of return, he will stretch out the time and will answer sadly and complain about the time. If he is able, he will barely bring half - and this will be imputed to him as a godsend. And if he is not able, then the lender has lost his money and for no reason has made himself an enemy in him. He will repay him with cursing and scolding, and instead of reverence he will repay him with dishonor" (Sir. 29:4–9). And there are many such people, to our shame.

Of all kinds of human ingratitude, the gravest is the ingratitude towards parents, which we so often encounter. Who, if not parents, should we consider our first and foremost benefactors? They gave us life, endured our childhood whims and vices, and sometimes even insults, took care of us and laid down our lives for us. But often old parents, no longer able to work, are driven out of the house by their evil children, and if they leave them, bread is served to them with a curse and anger, so that a piece gets stuck in the throat of the unfortunate father or mother.

Listen to what the wise Jesus, the son of Sirach, says about honoring parents: "Honor your father and mother in deed and word, so that a blessing from them will come upon you, for the blessing of the father establishes children at home, and the curse of the mother destroys to the ground. He who leaves his father is the same as a blasphemer, and he who irritates his mother is cursed from the Lord" (Sir. 3:8–9, 16). In the book of Deuteronomy we read terrible words: "Cursed be he who speaks evil of his father or mother" (Deut. 27:16); in the book of Exodus - even more terrible: "Whoever strikes his father or his mother must be put to death" (Ex. 21:15). Such criminals were stoned, because it was necessary that their execution was a great event in the life of the people, so that the people could see and understand what punishment those who cruelly treat their parents deserve; that he may feel how grievous is the sin of offending his father.

So it was in ancient times. Now this law is not enforced. He who beats his father, who curses his mother often goes unpunished with us. And if parents suffering from cruelty decide to file a complaint with the court, then their existence becomes completely unbearable. But God's law is eternal, and if those who beat their father are not executed now, then the truth remains the truth. He who beats his father is condemned by God to death, and although no one stoned him, the curse of God will forever execute him. The truth of God will always be fulfilled, even when people stop following it.

Let those who insult their parents, who drive the old father or mother out of the house, who doom them to starvation, depriving them of their help, think about this. Let them remember that the ancient law is being fulfilled over them, that they are condemned by God to be stoned.

While healing ten lepers, Jesus Christ knew that nine of them would not return to give glory to the Lord, but, nevertheless, He healed them all. He poured out His immeasurable mercy on everyone, He gave His holy life for the sinners and the ungrateful. He suffered greatly on the Cross of Golgotha for the sake of us, the unworthy, for the sake of those who rejected Him, who put Him to death.

Thus, human ingratitude is a drop in the ocean of God's mercy. And just as it is impossible to stir up the sea by throwing a handful of sand or something unclean into it, so human ingratitude cannot in any way stir up the immeasurable mercy of God to all of us. This is what we must remember. Christ, who died on the Cross of Golgotha for us, the ungrateful, must always stand before our spiritual eyes.

If we follow the example of those who regard gratitude as their moral duty, and above all in relation to their parents, then God's mercy will be upon us and the heavy curse of the Old Testament will not weigh on us. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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