St. Paul the Hermit (c. 233-345)
It is unclear what we really know of Paul's life, how much is fable, how much fact. Paul was reportedly born in Egypt, where he was orphaned by age 15. He was also a learned and devout young man. During the persecution of Decius in Egypt in the year 250, Paul was forced to hide in the home of a friend. Fearing a brother-in-law would betray him, he fled in a cave in the desert. His plan was to return once the persecution ended, but the sweetness of solitude and heavenly contemplation convinced him to stay. He went on to live in that cave for the next 90 years. A nearby spring gave him drink, a palm tree furnished him clothing and nourishment. After 21 years of solitude a bird began bringing him half of a loaf of bread each day. Without knowing what was happening in the world, Paul prayed that the world would become a better place. St. Anthony attests to his holy life and death. Tempted by the thought that no one had served God in the wilderness longer than he, Anthony was led by God to find Paul and acknowledge him as a man more perfect than himself. The raven that day brought a whole loaf of bread instead of the usual half. As Paul predicted, Anthony would return to bury his new friend. Thought to have been about 112 when he died, Paul is known as the "First Hermit." His feast day is celebrated in the East; he is also commemorated in the Coptic and Armenian rites of the Mass.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Mark 2:1-12
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Son, your sins are forgiven. Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone? Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . . He said to the paralytic, I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, We have never seen anything like this!
Christ and us
(Homily by. Fr. E. J. Tyler)
There are two features of creation which call for our contemplation, because they reveal the ways of God towards man. These ways of God are manifested also in our Gospel passage today. The first fundamental fact is that everything comes from and is directly sustained in being by God. All that we are, all that we have, and everything that happens, is the direct result of the sustaining hand of God. When a person sins, God does not cause the sin but he sustains in being the one who, by his own free decision, is sinning. This is one aspect of the profound odiousness of sin, that the all-holy God is brought so close to it. God cannot veil his face from what is so hateful to him because he holds in existence the one who does what is offensive to him. Precisely because he is constantly creating whatever exists apart from himself, God who is utterly other than all that is, is simultaneously intimately near to all that is. This imminence of God means that we may turn to him knowing that he is so very near, nearer to us in awareness than we are to ourselves. We depend on him directly and can speak to him directly because precisely as our Creator he is so immediate to us. That having been said, we observe another feature of creation. It is that God sustains and aids us through his creatures. We generally get our help from him through our fellow creatures rather than directly from him. The child depends completely on God for every aspect of existence, but he also depends on his parents and on creation for his existence. His parents give him food, the planet gives him air, and his family gives him love. In fact, man’s vocation is precisely to serve his fellow man and never to leave him - as it were - simply in the hands of his Creator. This law of service pervades the entire creation. The flower provides pollen and the bee collects it for food, and the bee provides honey for man. Man spends his life and gains his livelihood by serving others. That is to say, all creatures depend on their fellows for their life and flourishing, while all the time depending directly on God for everything.
This general pattern is reflected in our Gospel today (Mark 2: 1-12). The crowd - with the exception of the hostile teachers of the law - look to Jesus directly for the answer to their needs. We read that "when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them." Moreover, a paralytic who could not reach him was lowered before him. We read that "Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on." Our Lord proceeded to forgive his sins and to restore him to complete health. In Jesus Christ the people, including the helpless paralytic, had direct access to God, for Jesus is God. But notice this, that the paralytic was brought to Jesus by his friends. It was when Jesus saw their faith - the faith not only of the paralytic but of his friends - that he forgave the paralytic his sins. The paralytic depended not only Christ, but on the physical help of his friends, and on their faith. All through his public ministry the incarnate Son of God generally brought the blessings of heaven to man through the help and agency of others. Our Lord gathered disciples in order to make of them fishers of men. He sent more of his disciples out two-by-two ahead of him to prepare his way. Even in the gathering of his disciples, our Lord depended on others. His first two disciples - Andrew and probably John - had been more or less sent to him by their master, John the Baptist. Simon Peter came to Jesus, but it was through the word and encouragement of his brother Andrew. Likewise, Bartholomew came to Jesus, but it was through the word of Philip. At the end, just before he ascended into heaven, our Lord charged his disciples to go to the whole world and make disciples of all the nations. He would be with them. But he depended on them - just as he depends on us.
For our very creation we depend utterly on God, but for our creation we depended also on our parents. For our redemption and sanctification we depend utterly on Christ, but at the same time for our redemption and sanctification we depend on the ministry of his Church. God has made us his co-workers. We who are members of the Church are called to bring others into the presence of Jesus. Let us resolve to be like those people in the Gospel who brought their friend into the presence of Jesus. While people depend on God and on Jesus, they also depend on us, and we shall be held to account for the responsibility Christ has given to us of bringing him to them by our prayers, our words and our deeds.