Sermon by Protopriest Leonid Kolchev (+1944), on the 6th Sunday of Pentecost
Gospel of Matthew, reading 29 (19:1-8)
I will relate to you, brethren, a brief outline of today's Gospel reading for purposes of moral edification.
Jesus Christ came to the city of Capernaum, which was then called "the city of Jesus," since, not having His own home, often stayed here, most likely in the home of Holy Apostle Peter. As soon as His disciples learned this, they began coming here in large numbers to hear His teachings, and the sick would come to be healed by Him. Among the latter was one man suffering from palsy whom four sympathetic people, with great difficulty, carried on stretchers to this house and lowered through the roof onto the floor at the feet of Jesus. The sick man said nothing, lying in his stretcher like a corpse but in apparent agony; those who brought him were likewise silent. And seeing their faith, the Lord, Seer of men's hearts, said to the sick man: "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee," that is, the cause of this terrible disease was removed from him. The enemies of Christ misunderstood this--the Scribes and Pharisees. They thought it odd: who can forgive sins but God? Their bewilderment grew when Jesus Christ revealed His omniscience as He read their minds: " Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk" No reply followed. Clearly, both are within the power of God, and so Jesus Christ said to the stricken of palsy: "I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." Following these words was the remarkable healing to the great joy of the suffering man. The people, beholding this miracle, praised God in the simplicity of their hearts, Who had granted such power to mankind.
I would like to draw your attention to the following Gospel words: "When Jesus saw their faith," that is, Christ forgave the sins of the sick man, then healed him. So, by the faith of some, others are granted mercy. The teaching of the Orthodox Church on prayer for others is founded upon this event, not only for the living, but for the dead, because the love we express in beseeching mercy for others never ceases (I Corinthians 13:8). Thus did Job the Much-Suffering pray for his friends, who had insulted him with their suspicions, and the Lord forgave them. The Prophet Moses more than once interceded for the cruelty of the Jewish people, and the Lord sent down His mercies. Judas Maccabeus, after the emancipation of the Jews from the Syrian yoke, brought sacrifice to God not only for the living, but for the dead. Apostle Paul himself begged the faithful to join him in prayers to God for his sake (Romans 15:30 ). That is why Apostle James commands: " Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him " (James 5:14 -15). The mystic John saw an angel who had " a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand " (Revelation 8:3-4). There are many examples in the Lives of the Saints when the Lord, for the sake of His holy men and women, pours forth all manner of mercies to those who beseech Him in faith.
Whom among us does not know how a mother prays for her child, then teaches her to pray for those dear to their hearts? Who among you has not asked his spiritual father for prayers; and what of these touching handwritten notes for the living and the dead which we submit during Liturgy; O, if only you knew how important this is for them! Portions of prosphoras are cut out for each of the living and dead by the clerygmen, who then immerses them into the Holy Chalice with the words: " Wash away, Lord, by Your holy Blood, the sins of all those commemorated through the intercessions of the Theotokos and all Your saints."
Pray, o brethren, pray for each other, pray for the living and for the dead, and the Lord God, beholding your profound faith with knowledge of the greatness of God and your own unworthiness, your faith, accompanied by love, united with humility and hope for mercy, will say "Make bold, My children, as I had mercy upon the palsied man by the faith of those who brought him, so now I grant salvation to those for whom you ask."