Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Are we comfortable in our sin?


When Jesus saw him lying there, He knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"  John 5:6

What a question the Lord asked the man that day, "Do you want to be healed?"  The answer is obvious, isn't it?  Maybe not as apparent as we think.  After all the Lord is no fool, He had a reason for asking.  Sometimes people get used to being sick, it becomes their way of life, all of their assumptions are built around their condition.   After 38 years a person may grow used to the attention, used to the pity, it is who he is, what he knows and a change may not be as welcome as it seems.  For many today, in our warped and twisted society, disability means free money, and there is no stronger or more addictive drug than that.  Therefore the Lord's question, "Do you want to be healed?" makes more sense than we might think. 

This is certainly true of spiritual healing.  We are born of sinful parents and come from the womb, not innocent as everyone assumes, but stained with the sin of Adam.  We are not neutral about transgressing the desires of our God, but rather we are born on the wrong side of the fence and the grass does not look greener on the other side.  For that to happen we must first enter the pool, not the pool of Bethesda, but of baptism.

It is probably safe to say that  most people would like to be delivered from their afflictions: to be saved from spending their sparse resources on doctors, medical tests, surgeries, pharmaceuticals and insurance premiums.  They long to be released, and to live their lives free of care, and free of pain.  It is no idle saying that: when you've got your health you've got just about everything.  Indeed, health has become the rage of the age.  There is a pill or a treatment or a preventative regimen for everything.  Ten thousand Internet sites have the answer to whatever ails you, and if only you will believe, if only you will send in your money, you too can live happily ever after dot com!

No, the Lord did not ask a strange question.  The man certainly wanted to be free of his condition, as did the other people who came to what must have been the Lourdes of the day, but the Great Physician's question goes deeper than that.  This man wanted to be free from the symptom, but Jesus came to cure the disease.  Why was this man sick?  Why are you sick?  Why do we succumb to the things that we do?  Why did a 43 year old man stand on the crest of the roof of his house on Storer Avenue last week raging at the world, howling at the moon, and threatening to end it all?  It is because of the disease at the heart of it all, the spiritual sickness, the deadliest disorder of all, our own transgressions.

Now you may think of sin as something theoretical, the crossing of an invisible boundary put in place by an imaginary God.  You may say:  those rules may be true for you, but don't impose your morality on me.  Fair enough, but if sin is only a construct, and the ten commandments only the invention of ancient men to make us behave better, not carved in stone, but as easily deletable as the pixels on your computer screen, then why do people suffer and why do they die?  Why, in their very rare sober moments, when all earthly props, earthly intoxicants and earthly diversions give way, why do they justify themselves and assess "I am a good person."  "I have lived a good life?"  What does it matter if there is no sin, no God, no objective, divine, timeless and universal standard bigger than we can understand?  And why are they afraid of God, afraid of death, and plagued by regret and anxiety?

But let us not over analyze, for no one can understand these things apart from the Spirit of God who is given to us as a baptismal gift; the One who enlightens us, gives us repentance, faith, self-control and all of His virtues, and who will raise us up, as on eagle's wings on the last day, for St. Paul writes, "If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies..."

It is true that, "No one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit," but with the Spirit we are able to see what human eyes will not, and what human hearts cannot, namely that Jesus doesn't only cure disease but that He Himself is the cure!  His blood, shed on the cross and applied to us in baptism -- and factually received by our mortal flesh in the Eucharist -- cures the disease and gives us life in a world without end, but what is that life?  For that we must turn to the Revelation of St. John.  This book is not the sci-fi adventure that radio preachers claim it to be.  It is, instead, the vision God gave to St. John as he celebrated the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day while suffering exile in the gulag called Patmos on account of his faith in Jesus.  Even under those circumstances, perhaps because of those circumstances, God gave him eyes to see what sin's cure really means.  What wondrous health and well-being we are given as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, whatever we might look like now:  scarred, crippled, weakened by illness, marred by the ravages of sin both within and without.

Whatever the medical images might show there is something that they cannot see, that we are dazzling saints in the most important eyes of all, the eyes of Him who washed us clean from all sin in the pool of Holy Baptism.  We are the glorious Bride of Christ whose radiance is like the most rare of all jewels, bound for the place where no lamp or sun is needed for the Lord Himself will shine His living light upon us.  That's what Jesus does for all who are sick unto death with sin.  He makes them well, makes them holy -- like Himself -- by His blood, by His Word, by His Sacraments.   Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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