Sunday, October 06, 2013

Palsy and Penitence

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.
The common cold is a miserable affair.
 It often starts with that
tell-tale tickle at the back of your throat
which then gradually makes your throat sore
that you can’t sing or speak.

There’s sneezing and coughing
and a general feeling sorry for yourself.

And you think “If only I hadn’t stood
too near that old lady with the cough on the bus.

If only I’d had that orange at lunchtime
instead of that Kit-Kat.

If only… if only… if only…”
“If only”s are very much like “what if”s.

 They only give you a glimpse
of what could have been,
but they can never be real.

The Past is the Past and it cannot be recovered.

 For now you have to spend
the best part of a week or more using up
 the entirety of Medway’s allowance of Kleenex.

Is it really our own failure to take proper care
that we catch colds and other diseases?


The Jews upto the first century
are very much of the opinion that
 if you suffer terribly,
it must be your fault.

Job’s friends try to convince him
that his awful sufferings are the result of some secret sin
which he should know about,
 despite the fact that Job keeps
protesting his innocence.

If you’re in pain then it’s your fault
because somewhere down the line you sinned.

That’s the reasoning here.

Do you believe that?

Well, it seems like Our Lord Jesus does.

Look at how he acts
with a man on the bed lying sick
with the palsy.

He says, “Son, be of good cheer;
thy sins be forgiven thee.” 
Then, to prove the Pharisees wrong
 in their thinking that He is blaspheming,
He tells the man to pick up his bed and walk home.
Is there really a link between
the sins of this sick man and his sickness?

If the Pharisees hadn’t complained,
would Jesus not have healed this man?

Telling a sick person their sins are forgiven
 is not going to make them better
unless their sins are actually
the cause of their sickness.

So it seems that Our Lord does indeed believe
 that we suffer sickness because of our sins.

Do you think that too?

Well, appearances are deceptive.

 Our Lord is not actually saying
that our sins necessarily cause our suffering at all.

 Indeed, when he hears that some Galilaeans
had been murdered by Romans while offering their sacrifices
, Our Lord says quite categorically,
 “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners
 above all the Galilaeans,
 because they suffered such things?

I tell you, Nay:
but, except ye repent,
ye shall all likewise perish.

 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell,
and slew them,
think ye that they were sinners above all men
that dwelt in Jerusalem?

 I tell you, Nay:
 but, except ye repent,
ye shall all likewise perish.”

Our Lord is saying that our sin
 is not the cause of our suffering
but that they both come from the same place
 –the presence of Evil among us.

 The sick man whom Jesus heals
 is not just sick with the palsy, but sick with sin as well.
His sins need forgiveness
and so Our Lord gives him forgiveness and,
to show that He has the same authority
over physical sickness as spiritual sickness,
He heals him of the palsy too. 

For Our Lord,
forgiving sin is just as easy as healing sickness.

However, if the Lord grants authority
 to His Bishops and Priests the ability to forgive sins,
why doesn’t He give them authority to heal sickness?


only God really knows the answer to that,
 but there are indications as to possible reasons.

A sickness of the body dies with the body;
a sickness of the immortal soul is itself immortal.

This is why repentance is so important,
so that we do not die to God by refusing to be healed
from our spiritual sicknesses.

For God,
this is a much greater priority
than our physical sickness.

 This is why the forgiveness of sins
is constantly mentioned
in the Old and New Testaments,
proclaimed by prophets, 
and an integral part of the life
of the Church.

St Paul reminds us,
“put off concerning the former conversation the old man,
 which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man,
which after God is created
 in righteousness
and true holiness.”

We must repent of sin in order to be free
just as much as we must take our medicine
to get better.


The Church is not a place
for the folk who are well.

 It is the place for those
who need their lives healed.

 It is a hospital in which the Priests
act as nurses dispensing the medicine of the sacraments.
These nurses, however, are just as ill
as the patients for we are all human
and all in need of healing.

The doctor, of course,
 is Our Lord who will heal
all those who come to Him.

Have you taken your medicine today?

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