Homily on the Sunday of the Paralytic

St. John 5:1-15; Acts 9:32-42. 


Three lessons: A Life lesson from St. John Chrysostom: We must persevere, even when there is no clear solution.  A moral lesson from St. Augustine: There is a time for being cared for and healed, but there is also a time for healing others. A theological lesson from St. John Chrysostom: God set it up this strange way to prepare us to understand the real healing that would come through baptism.  Enjoy the show!

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Homily Notes:

A Life lesson:

St. John Chrysostom: We must persevere, even when there is no clear solution.

It is the striving that often matters, that perfects, that strengthens. The crown of victory is the result of constant struggle in the correct direction, not the result of chance. The Gospel is that God is with us – that He is within us – not that He is more available to fix our problems. We are being made perfect in suffering to prepare us to live in a world we do not yet deserve. The struggle in God and with Him in us is the running of the race so that we can receive the crown. The Gospel is NOT that God will make the world more comfortable for us and our weakness; it is that we can overcome of the world through the strength that we have in Him and Him in us. Miracles and the addressing of short-term needs in answer to our prayers are like the stirring of the pool: only there to show that God has the power to do the BIG thing that He has promised.

ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: We … might persist in prayer for something for ten days or so, and if we have not obtained it, we are too lazy afterwards to employ the same energy [as he did]. And yet, we will wait forever on our fellow human beings, fighting and enduring hardships, performing menial labor, all for the chance of something that in the end fails to meet our expectations. But when it comes to our Master, from whom we are sure to obtain a reward greater than our labors … we exercise no such diligence in waiting on him.… For even if we receive nothing from him, isn’t the very fact that we are able to converse with him continually the cause of ten thousand blessings?

A moral lesson:

St. Augustine. There is a time for being cared for and healed, but there is also a time for healing others. We are looking pretty good compared to most of the people I see out there; we need to “take up our bed and walk”; walk as Christians, bringing comfort and hope to the suffering. We can even do this while we ourselves are suffering, because our greatest malady has been healed (example of patients in hospital).

St. Augustine:

What significance is there, then, in the bed, I ask you? What, except that that sick man was carried on the bed, but when healed, he carries the bed? What was said by the apostle? “Bear your burdens, each for the other, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Now the law of Christ is love, and love is not fulfilled unless we bear our burdens, each for the other. “Bearing with one another,” he says, “in love, eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”25 When you were sick, your neighbor was carrying you. You have been healed; carry your neighbor. So you will fulfill, O man, what was lacking to you. “Take up,” therefore, “your bed.” But when you have taken it up, do not stay; “walk.” In loving your neighbor, in being concerned about your neighbor, you are taking a trip. Where are you taking a trip to except to the Lord God, to him whom we ought to love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind? For, we have not yet reached the Lord, but we have our neighbor with us. Therefore carry him with whom you are walking that you may reach him with whom you long to stay. Therefore “take up your bed, and walk.”

A theological lesson:

St. John Chrysostom: Why did God set it up this way (through an angel)? To prepare us to understand the real healing that would come through baptism. We all have that healing, and so we have the Lord in us, strengthening us for the inheritance of eternal life that He has prepared for us through His grace (for by grace alone we are saved). But that water, that cure, that relationship with God, and that inheritance is something that God desires for everyone. So let us go out to the places where the spiritually sick congregate in hopes of a cure, and let us ask them “do you want to be healed”, and then let us share with them the very thing that has brought healing and joy to us.

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: What kind of a cure is this? What mystery does it signify to us?… What is it that is shown in outline? A baptism was about to be given that possessed much power. It was the greatest of gifts, a baptism purging all sins and making people alive instead of dead. These things then are foreshown as in a picture by the pool.… And this miracle was done so that those [at the pool] who had learned over and over for such a long time how it is possible to heal the diseases of the body by water might more easily believe that water can also heal the diseases of the soul. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 36.1.


Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2006). John 1–10 (p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.