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2018-02-25 Homily. Fr. François Beyrouti. "Third miracle"

Homily. Third miracle. Father François Beyrouti. Sunday, February 25, 2018.
Sunday of the Holy Relics and Saint Gregory Palamas

Epistle of the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Hebrews 1:10-14, Page 353 (English) – Page 397 (Arabic)
Prokimenon (Tone 5)
You, O Lord, will keep us and preserve us always from this generation. Stichon: Save me, O Lord, for there is no longer any holy man, for truthfulness has vanished from among the children of men.

A Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews: 1: 10-14; 2: 1-4
You in the beginning, O Lord, did found the earth, and the heavens are works of your hands. They shall perish, but you shall continue; and they shall all grow old as does a garment, and as clothing shall you change them, and they shall be changed. But you are the same, and your years shall not fail (Ps. 101: 26-28). Now, to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies the footstool at your feet” (Ps. 109: 1)? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent for service, for the sake of those who shall inherit salvation? That is why we should all the more earnestly observe the things we have heard, lest perhaps we drift away. For if the word spoken by angels proved to be valid, and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? For it was first announced by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard it.

Alleluia (Tone 5). Your favor, O Lord, I will sing forever; from generation to generation my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness. Stichon: For you have said, “My kindness is established forever.” In heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.

Gospel of the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Mark 2:1-12 (Healing of the Paralytic)
At that time Jesus entered Caparnaum, and it was reported that he was at home. And immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even around the door. And he spoke the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four. And since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was, and, having made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the Paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Now some of the Scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man blaspheme in this way? Who can forgive sins, beside God?” And at once Jesus, knowing in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why are you arguing these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet, and walk’? But that you may know the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” ― he said to the paralytic ― “I say to you, arise, take up your pallet, and go to your house,” And immediately he arose and, taking up his pallet, went forth in the sight of all, so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, “Never did we see anything like this!”

How many miracles did Jesus do in today’s Gospel?

You may say one, to refer to Jesus healing the paralyzed man. Perhaps two, since Jesus also forgave this man’s sins. But are there at least three, if not more miracles in today’s Gospel?

Let’s look at the first two first. For many, the most memorable part of this Gospel is that Jesus healed a paralyzed man. This was definitely a great miracle because he was not just injured or partially paralyzed, the man was completely paralyzed and needed four men to carry him. Jesus fully healing the paralyzed man and said: “rise, take up your pallet and go home” (Mark 2:11).

There is however a second miracle that we could easily overlook. Before Jesus healed the paralyzed man, He said “your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). But, why is this a miracle?

Forgiving someone’s sins is not something we do naturally. We could even say that we should not forgive as people deserve the consequences of their actions. Perhaps forgiveness is illogical because people choose to either do good or bad. If someone chose to hurt me why should I forgive them?

The problem with this kind of thinking is that forgiveness is not an effort to be logical, it is a grace to be merciful.

A very important aspect of this Gospel is that Jesus forgives the paralyzed man’s sins before He cures the man. This order should strike us as being odd and counter-dramatic because the man’s friends did not carry him from home then lower him from the roof because he had committed any specific sins that he wanted forgiven.

By forgiving his sins first, Jesus shows that it is a miracle to be able to see that someone needs our forgiveness. It is also a miracle to have the humility to forgive them. When we look at people we first see externals such as their face, their hair, what they are wearing, or how healthy they are. The second miracle, or rather the first, as presented to us in the gospel, is to look beyond physical appearances. We need to be able to see that we are all paralyzed by sin and our relationships are also paralyzed by our unwillingness to forgive.

Everyone around Jesus saw a paralyzed man. The second miracle is that Jesus also saw a man who, more importantly, needed forgiveness. People saw that the man struggled physically, while Jesus saw that the man and all of us struggle spiritually. In all of us the inner battle of our minds is a higher priority and needs urgent care.

But, what is the third miracle? When we read the Bible we should always think of a window and a mirror. The window is what is happening in the story. When we read something we are like people observing what is happening in someone else’s world. Today’s Gospel speaks about a place called Caparnaum, a house, a room, people, and actions. None of these refer to us, or do they?

This is where the third miracle needs to take place. In addition to a window that shows us the life of someone else, the Bible is also a mirror that should challenge us to reflect on our life. The third miracle is only in today’s Gospel if we choose to live the first two miracles.

This time of fasting is so important because it reminds us that our focus in life should be less on appearances and more on our spiritual journey with God. Those who are fasting have already began to feel both physically and spiritually different. By changing our choices, we force ourselves to think more about what we eat and drink in order to reflect more on what we think and do. The more we can do this, the more miracles we will see in our lives.

Jesus saw what others did not see and wants us to mirror this. When we look at our family and friends, what do we see? Are we able to see the personality and not just the person? And are we able to work on who we are more than how we look? We see the third miracle, and perhaps also the fourth and fifth, when the Gospel becomes real in some way in our life.

Some famous shrines where Mary has appeared, such as Fatima, Lourdes, and others have crutches and wheelchairs that people who were physically healed have left behind. This as proof of people’s faith and God’s power. These are definitely miracles, but every Church is meant to be a place where we leave our spiritual crutches behind as we accept that God loves and forgives us.

God sees greatness in us, then invites us to be merciful to see that greatness in others by also loving and forgiving them with all our heart. There is a saying: “A chip on your shoulder makes you carry an unnecessary heavy weight.” Lent is a time to let go of unnecessary burdens and to re-commit our lives to being mirrors of God’s love.

Today’s Gospel presents us with two miracles. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man’s sins then heals him. We can only discover a third or fourth miracle, if starting right now, we are willing to make these happen in our lives and our relationships.

Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
Office: (714) 985-1710
My cell: (714) 914-1710
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