Friday, 17 June 2011
Ember Friday in the Octave of Pentecost
It always seems an oddity to have a First Class Friday as an Ember Day, and indeed it is entirely an artifact of the 1962 calendar - in the older one it was a 'semi-duplex', thus creating no (theoretical) conflict between the idea of an exemption from fasting and abstinence due to solemnity, and the tradition of it being as fast day!
Today's Gospel is Luke 5:17-26, the healing of the paralytic. Here is the sermon on it by St Ambrose:
The healing of this paralytic was not unmeaning, nor its fruits limited to himself. It was for his sake that the Lord prayed before he healed him. Certainly it was not because he must needs ask the power to heal, but for example's sake. He gave a pattern to be followed, not a display of prayer on his own behalf. In the presence of the Pharisees and doctors of the Law, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem, many sick folk were healed, but among them is specially described the healing of this paralytic. Now, as we have said before, every sick man at the very first ought to engage his friends to offer up prayers for his recovery, that so the tottering form of our life, and the halting footsteps of our conduct, may be restored by the heavenly medicine of the healing word of prayer.
There ought also to be someone to counsel him, and to raise his mind to higher things, lest the sick body weigh down the soul with its languor. With the help of such friends he can, by means of prayer, be brought to Jesus, and (as it were) laid on the ground before his feet, so that the Lord may lift up his countenance upon him, who is thus laid low before him. Yea, the Lord doth countenance the lowly, for he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden Mary. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him: Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. Great is the Lord! For the merits of some, he forgives the sins of others. In commending the good deeds of one, he grants amnesty to another. Why, O man is thy fellow-citizen of nothing worth in thy sight, while before God the lowest slave has the privilege of pleading and the power to obtain his request?
O you who judges, learn to forgive; thou that art sick, learn to pray. If thou art doubtful of the pardon of thy sins, because of their grievousness, ask for intercessions. Get to the Church, that she may pray for you, and that the Lord, regarding her, may grant to her pleadings what he might otherwise refuse to you. And now, though we must not pass over the historical fact that the body of this paralytic was healed, yet let us remember also the inward cure, for his sins were forgiven. The Jews said: Who can forgive sins but God alone? And in these words they confessed the Godhead of him who forgave the sins of the paralytic, and themselves condemned their own unbelief in him whose work they acknowledged, but whose Person they denied.