On the first Sunday of the blessed Coptic month of Babah, we heard in the Divine Liturgy the Gospel according to St. Mark 2:1-12, in which we were confronted by a man who is paralyzed, but nonetheless has friends that care and bring him to our Lord to be healed.
Our Lord Jesus Christ came to a city called Capernaum, a city that was like His second home after Nazareth. At the time of our story, our Lord was surrounded by many people who greatly loved and admired Him. He was teaching in a house so completely full that no one could fit inside or even stand outside. In the midst of this scene, we are confronted by a certain paralytic and his four friends. The friends want to bring the paralytic to our Lord, but could not, because of the great crowd. In great faith, they opened the roof of the house and lowered their friend to our Lord through it. Because of their faith, our Lord healed the paralytic and all the multitude glorified God.
The Presence of God
We see in this Gospel reading that the friends of the paralytic had but a single goal: to bring their friend into the presence of Jesus. They were not able to do this easily, because of the great crowd of people around Jesus.
We encounter similar crowds throughout the Gospel, as in, for example, the story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector who wanted to see our Lord Jesus Christ, but could not on account of the crowd. In that story and in this gospel reading, the crowd is a symbol of the obstacles that we all face in our Christian lives. For Zacchaeus, the crowd prevented him from seeing Christ, because he was a man of short stature. For the paralytic, the crowd prevented him from receiving healing from Christ, because it was impossible to bring a man lying on a bed to our Lord in the midst of this great crowd.
What did both Zacchaeus and the paralytic’s friends do to overcome the crowd? They ascended above the crowd. Zacchaeus climbed up a tree whereas the paralytic’s friends climbed up the roof with their friend. In essence, both Zacchaeus and these four friends did the unthinkable in order to see and be in the presence of God.
This, my brothers and sisters, is a lesson to all of us. Our goal, like the goals of Zacchaeus and the paralytic’s friends, is to place ourselves in the presence of God. A man once asked a spiritual elder, “Father, what is your main spiritual exercise?” The elder replied, “The perfect visualization of God’s presence.” In other words, this elder lived his entire life in the presence of God. When he performed any action, no matter how simple or mundane or seemingly unimportant, he was able to visualize the presence of God with him as he performed these actions. In doing so, this elder became happier, wiser, and stronger in every aspect of his life. One of the main reasons we commit sin is because we forget or purposefully exclude the presence of God in our lives. Either we forget about God when we sin and only remember Him after the sin is complete, or we harden our hearts to exclude God from our lives so we can sin with a clear conscience. Regardless of which we choose, the result is the same: we suffer greatly because of our separation from God. This type of separation is seen clearly in the story of our ancestors, Adam and Eve, in the Book of Genesis. When they committed sin and disobeyed God, one of their first impulses was to hide themselves from His presence. We unfortunately do the same today.
If we remembered the presence of God throughout every aspect of our lives, we would never commit sin. If we remembered the presence of God throughout every aspect of our lives, we would never feel despair, even in the most difficult of circumstances, because the knowledge of God’s presence would sustain us. A person who remembers the presence of God can confront any situation and say with faith, “Since God exists, all is possible.”
This Gospel reading, therefore, teaches us about the importance of being in God’s presence in every aspect of our lives.