Episode 395 – Don’t Turn Your Back on God

When the Paralytic admitted to Christ that he didn’t have anyone to help him enter the water and be healed, Christ healed him. When we entered the waters of our Baptism, Christ healed us. The Paralytic went and praised God after he was healed. Most of the time we go through life and ignore God. We have the chance to be healed at every Divine Liturgy when Christ offers us Holy Communion. Let’s not turn our back on God any longer. Let’s live prepared to receive Holy Communion, and live forever.

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My brothers and sisters, in this morning’s gospel, we heard of yet another healing miracle of Christ. This time as he’s approaching the gate, he sees this man waiting. He had been there for 38 years. As we know from the story, that the Spirit would go down and stir the pool, and whoever got in first according to the tradition was healed. It doesn’t say how many times the Spirit went down. It doesn’t say how many times the man missed the opportunity. But when Christ asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” as if to suggest the man wasn’t doing everything he could do to be healed. “Do you want to be healed? You’re laying there 38 years.” The man confessed. He says, “I don’t have anyone. I don’t have a single human being to help me.”

Now, we just heard this expression Anthropos during Holy Week, when Pilate brings out Christ to be crucified and he says, “Behold the man,” the human being par excellence, the only true human being, Jesus Christ. Christ says basically, “Okay, I’m here. You said you didn’t … and now I’m here.” “Pick up your bed and go.” The man goes his way.

Now, my brothers and sisters, we have this same dilemma in our life. We sit in the church Sunday after Sunday, year after year, aching in our hearts, some of us, struggling not just with physical pain, but spiritual pain. We come so close. We even have the opportunity, those of us who are Orthodox and have been baptized, we even have the opportunity to go into the water. It’s no accident by the way that the church calls the baptismal font “kolymbithra”, the same word used in this morning’s gospel because when we entered the water, God healed us. From that moment we were in our baptismal waters, we were healed by God.

So now God must be wondering “What are we waiting for?” This man got up and walked and instantly praised God. He immediately began giving credit to God, glorifying God. We go about our life as if God hasn’t even helped us, keeping our mouths shut. We think we’re being polite by not talking about Jesus in today’s society. We think we are keeping the peace by not speaking about Jesus in today’s society. I would suggest to you that when we remain silent, we are acting as if God hasn’t helped us.

Now, I’m not suggesting going on the street corner with your Bible and a blowhorn, “Attention Tarpon Springs.” We had the protestors here a few weeks ago claiming that we were not real Christians. Did it change any of our minds? Of course not, because standing in a strange place and just shouting doesn’t change hearts.

You see, what changed this man in the gospel was he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and Christ healed him. We, my brothers and sisters, as the church have had that same encounter when we entered our baptismal waters, but we also get the opportunity each and every divine liturgy to be healed by God.

I must confess, it confuses me. It confuses me that so many of us will come to church and then leave church having not received Holy Communion, unless the church says we are not allowed to. I mean, think about it. For those of us who are allowed to receive Holy Communion, what are we saying to God when we leave the church and not receiving Holy Communion? We are turning our backs on him. We are telling him that we don’t need him. He’s here, he’s telling us, just like he told the man, “Okay, fine. You want some help? Here I am.” Christ is here with us, and yet how many of us leave this church turning our back on God, not receiving Holy Communion, again, unless the church has told us we are not to receive.

There are so many in our world that want Christ and who cannot have him. Those of us who can and reject him, shame on us. It is like turning our back on God. Imagine if the young man had said to Christ, “Ah, I’ll figure it out myself. I’ll get into the water by myself.” Another 38 years would’ve gone by.

So my brothers and sisters, my invitation to you in this new Pascha period, change the way you think of Holy Communion. I know that this is difficult to accept. I grew up hearing It’s not Kool-Aid, it’s not Coke. But Christ also said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” The paralytic would still be paralyzed if he didn’t talk to Christ, and we have him and we ignore him.

So my invitation, prepare, be prepared, live prepared so that every liturgy you may receive Holy Communion because it is the only thing that will cure us from the struggles of life, maybe physical, but for sure spiritual. There is no other way to be healed than with Christ. This is our chance. Take the opportunity, and do not turn your backs on God because we have someone to help us. We have Christ. Christ is Risen!

Episode 395 – Don’t Turn Your Back on God

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