Archive for the ‘Pascha’ Category

Furniture Mover

May 9, 2009


During the Sundays after Pascha, we hear about the ways people respond to the Resurrection. On Thomas Sunday, we found that some respond with doubt. In the Myrrh-bearing women, some respond by becoming servants to the Body of Christ. Today, we will find that another response is to become furniture movers.

This is the way St. Bede sees it the story of the healing of the paralytic. Thirty eight years is a long time to suffer from paralysis. Bede finds the number 38 to of interest. It is two less than perfection. How did he get that idea? Well, multiply 10 (for the Ten Commandments) by 4 (for the Four Gospels), and you get the number 40, a number  which represents the full number of virtues. We are behind by two/ What do we lack?

To find healing, we must move the furniture.

First, the Lord said “Rise!” Simply, there’s not going to be any healing if we continue to roll about in our beds. I know the bed is comfortable. We become use to it and in many ways the bed has become a part of our personality. Yet, if there is to be healing, we must throw off the covers and place our feet on the floor and stand up. Can we do it? Yes, if we have faith in the power of the Lord’s command. After all, didn’t His command still the winds and calm the seas?

Second, the Lord said “take up your bed.” St. Bede’s take on this may surprise you. He wrote that to take up your bed means that you are to “lovingly carry your neighbor, by tolerating his weakness.” I leave behind my sins by rising up and now I carry my bed by bearing the burdens of others. Well, this is different, but how else can it be? Would the Lord have me carry the bed of my old sins? If so, then I would continue to be a slave to them. St. Paul reminds us that it is by bearing the burdens of others that I fulfill the Law of Christ. I forget this truth and I believe that I must be a martyr. After all, I carry such a heavy load of my own stuff.

Third, the Lord commands that I am to “walk.” Here, St. Bede tells us that this means to love God. Therefore, walking involves loving God with the heart, mind, soul, and strength. He puts it this way: Walk…”so that you may be worthy to reach the vision of Him. Go forward by making daily strides of good works from virtue to virtue. Do not desert your brother…nor turn aside from the right direction of your path…In everything that you do, see to it that you do not fix your mind upon this world, but that you hurry to see the face of your Redeemer.”

The end result was that the man became well, took up his bed, and went on walking. Well, as always, it’s up to us. We can lie around and hope that someday, all the circumstances of life will line up and the timing will be just right. Then, we’ll get into the water and all will be well. It is a tragic attitude because we can lie on this bed for 38 years hoping to be the lottery winner. This kind of attitude reminds me of a calling card that a protestant minister once showed me. On the front was the all of the important contact information, but on the back was a picture of a man in a casket located at the front of the church. Under the picture were these words, “Well, he always said he’d get to church as soon as he got straightened out!”

We need wait no longer if we will rise, take up our bed, and walk.

Don’t you think it’s time to move some furniture?

Christ is Risen! Well, So What?

May 8, 2008


It’s the greatest message that humanity has ever heard.

Its also the most ignored message in the world.

I look out in the post-Pascha world and little has changed. Wars go on, there is violence in the streets, and the rats are still running the race.  Christ is risen. You might think it impious of me but I must ask: Well, so what?

It’s one of the most amazing and perplexing passages of Scripture. “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17, NKJV)

“Some doubted.” Doubted? How in the world could this be possible? Some of them are actually looking at the Resurrected Lord and asking, “Well, so what?” I am absolutely sure that if I saw the Resurrected Lord with my own eyes, I would believe. After all, I’ve heard that “seeing is believing.” I’m sure that I would believe and I would change. I would be faithful. Wouldn’t I?

Maybe not.

After all, despite the glory of Pascha, I am still an unrepentant sinner. I am worse than St. Thomas because he touched the Lord’s flesh once and proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Eventually, Thomas made it all the way to India. I touch the Lord’s Body and Blood every Sunday and have done so for over 20 years, and I’ve hardly made it out of my house.

Perhaps the world ignores the greatest message of all time because the witness of many is that He is still dead. We remain a slave to sin and the glorious promise of the Resurrection has passed over us. Why does the stone remain over the tomb for us? What power keeps the stone from rolling away?

In Hebrews, chapter 2, it says, “…through death He (Jesus) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

So it is the fear of death that binds us and blinds us and makes us a slave to sin. Here are some examples. While I don’t spend most of my day worrying about my physical death,  I  worry about a lot of lesser things. I live to eat, not eat to live. Why do I eat so much? Am I afraid that I won’t get enough to eat? Deep in our hearts we are afraid-maybe no one will ever love us; maybe we are too ugly; maybe we will become poor, or maybe we really are a failure and always will be. The list of fears is endless.

The list of fears is endless, so I could go on but I think you get the point. Fear permeates every aspect of life and it lies at the foundation of every habitual sin that plagues us. It was that way for our Parents. When Adam and Eve broke God’s commandment, they hid in the bushes because they were afraid. When you think that previously they had “walked with God in the cool of the evening”, how sad that they hid themselves from their Father.

Christ offers to walk with me, but I’m hiding because of fear. Even though I proclaim with my lips that Christ is Risen, my heart is wrapped in chains. Is there no help?

Orthodoxy proclaims that Christ “trampled down death by death and upon those in the tombs, He bestowed life.” By trampling down death, he destroyed the binding power of death, which is fear. He defeated the one who wields this power, the devil. This means that my fears, though real to me, have no real power. To know this, I have to be willing to open the dark corners of my soul to the light of the Resurrection. One way that I begin to do this is by confession which allows me to begin to come out from my hiding place.

I remember hearing this story when I was young. Apparently, almost 10 years after World War II had ended, a lone Japanese soldier was found on a small island in the Pacific Ocean. He had spent a decade believing that the war was still going on, and so he stood his post and every day watched for the enemy.

I’m just like that poor soldier. Christ has won the war and the enemy has been defeated. The problem is, I haven’t really heard the good news yet. Well, I’ve heard it, but I just don’t fully believe it. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Maybe next Pascha, I will truly hear the Good News. The grave will open for me and the Risen Lord will stand before me and I will worship Him and not doubt. Maybe then I will know the glorious freedom of Christ. Maybe I will take the same hand that he extends to Adam and Eve and to the whole world. Then, I will proclaim the great message “Christ is Risen”, and those who hear it will believe because they will see that the message has transformed the messenger from a slave to fear into a slave of God.

The President was right-“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” John the Revelator heard it from the Lord- “Be not afraid…I hold the keys of Death and Hell.”

Truly He is Risen!