Lesson I- Metsague/ The paralytic man.
The Call for Repented Life.
The Gospel of John 5 talks about many kinds of paralysis that are holding us back and God's invitation for repented life. We often are captivated by our past, be it in the form of regrets, disappointment, fear, and above all, by sin. The devil didn't get his name accuser to simplify. He likes to use the sin of the past as a weapon to afflict us. But God wants to forgive our sins and use the past as a tool to build us up. There is a right and a wrong use of the past. Prophet Moses encouraged Israel to remember theirs bondage in Egypt lest they become proud and turn away from God. The Passover was an annual reminder of what God has done for them. When we see the mercy and love God in our past, then the memory will be a blessing. The past must not be an anchor to hold us back. Those who cannot remember the past, as a tool to guide the future, are condemned to repeat it. St Paul willingly participated in St. Stephen's death by holding the coats of those who stoned him. But he didn't allow the sin of the past to go forward, saying, "one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" [Philippians 3:13]. He taught us practically the power and miracle of repentance and life with the Lord. "Sin is so terrible, and a rebellion is a distressing disease to the soul, it causes a hidden paralysis to the energy of the soul and makes it deserving of eternal fire." [St. Cyril of Jerusalem]. Today's reading of the paralytic man is not just simply about his sin, but most importantly it is about the Lord Jesus Christ, who is extremely merciful, philanthropic [Lover of mankind], and entirely good who cries out with invitation for the life of repentance with Him, saying "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" [Matthew 11:28-29].
Whatever sin we have done, He is ready to forgive and give us a life once we "return to the Lord with all our heart" [1 Sam. 7:3]. The Bible says, "return to the Lord your God and obey His voice… Lord, your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." [Deut. 30:2-6]. Your accumulated transgressions will never be beyond God's abundant mercy, and your wound will never overcome the surpassing greatness of the Healer. All we need is an acceptance to the invitation of repented life with the Lord saying, "I have sinned against you… I will confess my transgression to the Lord." [Luke 15, Psalms 32]. The Father of our life will have compassion on us and will run toward us the minute we turn toward Him and welcome with open, loving arms.
In the Gospel reading, John Chapter 5, we read about a man who was paralyzed for 38 years in the place called Bethesda, that was made up of FIVE porches. Bethesda in Hebrew means "house of mercy," which is the type of the Church where God's mercy is revealed -- where the healing of souls happens for those who seek salvation. He wasn't the only person sick in that place, there were multitudes of people that consisted of the sick, blind, and lame -- waiting for a miracle. "For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had '' [John 5:4]. The coming of the angel from heaven to stirred up the water indicate the incarnation of the Word of God who descended from heaven and took the flesh and soul from St. Mary to save us. According to the Church Fathers one way of interpreting the five porches is as -the five books of Moses- the Laws. St. Augustine said regarding the passage, "the five porticaes were significative of the Law, bearing the sick, not healing them." People in the Old Testament, how devoted and close to God they were, they COULDN'T BRING SALVATION to them and their people. They all couldn't make it to the promised land- Heaven. They have to wait for the Savior of the World. Likewise, whether we are Mezumran, churchgoers, or non-believers, we will not come close to God and know His will without partaking the holy sacraments, which the church is always offering. The paralytic man signifies that we can't be right with God just by being church people and living in his House [Bethesda] or be serving as mezmurans [Choirs], clergy, Kebero lovers, Nigdet visitors or even knowledgeable teachers.
It wasn't only the act of sin that holds the paralytic man or any one of us for the matter of fact, near the pool [within the Church] without healing. It was equally due to the state of sin, the lack of repentance, which he chose to confine and live with. Like the multitude in Bethesda, we are many with fault living inside the Church. Don't ever think that because someone sins differently [living in the world] than you [living inside the church], you are somehow superior. Like the Mestagu, we are being infected with the "waiting syndrome." Metsagu even though God was there to heal him, he was still waiting for the moving water for healing. The paralytic man was distracted and fixed on the pool not knowing or realizing who He asked him to help. Most of us, while living in the Church focus on a multitude of tasks which we thought essential, but forget the basic need our soul requires [Luke 10:38-42]. We postpone and wait to have repented relationship with the Lord before it's too late. Some of us waiting for the "right time" to repent, to take holy communion, and above all, to choose/prioritize Him first in our Life. Mestagu waited 38 years and was about to miss the golden opportunity presented before him. How long will we wait to choose Him? How long are we comfortable just being church people, teachers, mezumran, and not taking communion and live according to His calling? How Long will we be Metsagu living inside the church? How much do we love God to respond to His calling and let Him stay in our hearts and body? It is always about how much we Love God.!?.
In this story, our God and Savior, Jesus Christ is inviting all of us to come to Him so that He may live in Us. He is stretching His hand through the Church's sacraments of Confession and mainly through Holy Communion so that He may start living inside us to overcome the sickness in us. It is cool to live inside the church, but there is no match or equivalence to the happiness and the JOY of letting Christ live in us through the Holy Communion. God has restored our relationship with Him through our Savior, Jesus Christ. He, then, has given the task of restoring relationships in the Church Sacrament of repentance as the blessed St. Pual says, "God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" [2 Cor. 5:18]. We ought to bring Him our sin, fear and worries of the past that have paralyzed our life. He is able and will provide healing to our disease and infliction, rest for tiresome, and joy for our heartbrokenness, in a manner we never dreamed of through the fruits of repentance. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" [Rom. 8:32]. He will say to us you paralytic, "Rise, take up your bed and walk ...Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.." We will immediately be made well and live with Him.
O! Lord show us Your ways, teach us your path so that we may know the plans You have for us. I believe Your plan are plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. [Jeremiah 29:11]
Lesson extract from book: "Tewahdo Orthodox Spiritual Journey From Fast of Nineveh to Good Friday" Deacon Medhanie Haile