Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chrysostom on Jesus' message to the Paralytic - "Sin no More"

Saint John Chrysostom's commentary on Jesus' message to the healed paralytic: "Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you." 


HOMILY 38 - St. John Chrysostom
A fearful thing is sin, fearful, and the ruin of the soul, and the mischief oftentimes through its excess has overflowed and attacked men's bodies also. For since for the most part when the soul is diseased we feel no pain, but if the body receive though but a little hurt, we use every exertion to free it from its infirmity, because we are sensible of the infirmity, therefore God oftentimes punisheth the body for the transgressions of the soul, so that by means of the scourging of the inferior part, the better part also may receive some healing. Thus too among the Corinthians Paul restored the adulterer, checking the disease of the soul by the destruction of the flesh, and having applied the knife to the body, so repressed the evil ( 1 Cor. v. 5 ); like some excellent physician employing external cautery for dropsy or spleen, when they refuse to yield to internal remedies. This also Christ did in the case of the paralytic; as He showed when He said, "Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."


Now what do we learn from this? First, that his disease had been produced by his sins; secondly, that the accounts of hell fire are to be believed; thirdly, that the punishment is long, nay endless. Where now are those who say, "I murdered in an hour, I committed adultery in a little moment of time, and am I eternally punished?" For behold this man had not sinned for so many years as he suffered, for he had spent a whole lifetime in the length of his punishment; and sins are not judged by time, but by the nature of the transgressions. Besides this, we may see another thing, that though we have suffered severely for former sins, if we afterwards fall into the same, we shall suffer much more severely. And with good reason; for he who is not made better even by punishment, is afterwards led as insensible and a despiser to still heavier chastisement. The fault should of itself be sufficient to check and to render more sober the man who once has slipped, but when not even the addition of punishment effects this, he naturally requires more bitter torments. Now if even in this world when after punishment we fall into the same sins, we are chastised yet more severely then before, ought we not when after sinning we have not been punished at all, to be then very exceedingly afraid and to tremble, as being about to endure something irreparable? "And wherefore," saith some one, "are not all thus punished? for we see many bad men well in body, vigorous, and enjoying great prosperity." But let us not be confident, let us mourn for them in this case most of all, since their having suffered nothing here, helps them on to a severer vengeance hereafter. As Paul declares when he saith, "But now that we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" ( 1 Cor. xi. 32 ); for the punishments here are for warning, there for vengeance."


What then," saith one, "do all diseases proceed from sin?" Not all, but most of them; and some proceed from different kinds of loose living, since gluttony, intemperance, and sloth, produce such like sufferings. But the one rule we have to observe, is to bear every stroke thankfully; for they are sent because of our sins, as in the Kings we see one attacked by gout ( 1 Kings xv. 23 ); they are sent also to make us approved, as the Lord saith to Job, "Thinkest thou that I have spoken to thee, save that thou mightest appear righteous?" ( Job lx. 8 , LXX.)


But why is it that in the case of these paralytics Christ bringeth forward their sins? For He saith also to him in Matthew who lay on a bed, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee" ( Matt. ix. 2 ): and to this man, "Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more." I know that some slander this paralytic, asserting that he was an accuser of Christ, and that therefore this speech was addressed to him; what then shall we say of the other in Matthew, who heard nearly the same words? For Christ saith to him also, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." Whence it is clear, that neither was this man thus addressed on the account which they allege. And this we may see more clearly from what follows; for, saith the Evangelist, "Afterward Jesus findeth him in the Temple," which is an indication of his great piety; for he departed not into the market places and walks, nor gave himself up to luxury and ease, but remained in the Temple, although about to sustain so violent an attack and to be harassed by all there. Yet none of these things persuaded him to depart from the Temple. Moreover Christ having found him, even after he had conversed with the Jews, implied nothing of the kind. For had He desired to charge him with this, He would have said to him, "Art thou again attempting the same sins as before, art thou not made better by thy cure?" Yet He said nothing of the kind, but merely secureth him for the future.


Why then, when He had cured the halt and maimed, did He not in any instance make mention of the like? Methinks that the diseases of these (the paralytic) arose from acts of sin, those of the others from natural infirmity. Or if this be not so, then by means of these men, and by the words spoken to them, He hath spoken to the rest also. For since this disease is more grievous than any other, by the greater He correcteth also the less. And as when He had healed a certain other He charged him to give glory to God, addressing this exhortation not to him only but through him to all, so He addresseth to these, and by these to all the rest of mankind, that exhortation and advice which was given to them by word of mouth. Besides this we may also say, that Jesus perceived great endurance in his soul, and addressed the exhortation to him as to one who was able to receive His command, keeping him to health both by the benefit, and by the fear of future ills.


And observe the absence of boasting. He said not, "Behold, I have made thee whole," but, "Thou art made whole; sin no more." And again, not, "lest I punish thee," but, "lest a worse thing come unto thee"; putting both expressions not personally, and showing that the cure was rather of grace than of merit. For He declared not to him that he was delivered after suffering the deserved amount of punishment, but that through lovingkindness he was made whole. Had this not been the case, He would have said, "Behold, thou hast suffered a sufficient punishment for thy sins, be thou steadfast for the future." But now He spake not so, but how? "Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more." Let us continually repeat these words to ourselves, and if after having been chastised we have been delivered, let each say to himself, "Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more." But if we suffer not punishment though continuing in the same courses, let us use for our charm that word of the Apostle, "The goodness of God leadeth[us] to repentance, but after[our] hardness and impenitent heart,[we] treasure up unto [ourselves] wrath." ( Rom. ii. 4, 5.)


And not only by strengthening the sick man's body, but also in another way, did He afford him a strong proof of His Divinity; for by saying, "Sin no more," He showed that He knew all the transgressions that had formerly been committed by him; and by this He would gain his belief as to the future.


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