St Cyril of Jerusalem: Wilt Thou Be Healed?

Feast of St Juliana the Virgin-Martyr

Cyril_of_Jerusalem_Square_2.jpgWHENEVER Jesus appears, there is salvation. If He sees a revenue officer sitting in his office, He makes him an apostle and evangelist. Laid in the grave, He raises the dead to life. He bestows sight on the blind, hearing on the deaf. When, as now, He visits the public baths, it is not out of interest in the architecture, but to heal the sick.

By the Sheep Market in Jerusalem there used to be a pool with five colonnades, four of which enclosed the pool, while the fifth spanned it midway. Here large numbers of sick would lie (unbelief also was rife among the Jews). The physician and healer of both souls and bodies showed fairness in choosing this chronic sufferer to be the first recipient of His gift, that he might the earlier be released from his pains. For not for one day only, nor for two, had the poor man lain on his bed in sickness—nor was it now the first month, no, nor the first year—but for eight-and-thirty years. His long-standing illness, rendering him a figure familiar to passersby, now made him ocular evidence of the power of his healer. For the paralytic was known to all by reason of the length of time. But though the master physician gave proof of His skill, He was rebuffed by those who put an unfavorable construction on His work of mercy.

As He walked around the pool, “He saw.” He did not elicit the information by asking questions, for His divine power obviated any such need. Not “asking,” but “seeing” how long the invalid had lain there; “seeing,” He knew; indeed He knew before He saw. For if in the case of secrets of the heart, “He had no need to question anyone concerning man, for He himself knew what was in man,” much more was this the case when it was a question of diagnosing diseases with visible symptoms.

He saw a bedridden man weighed down by a sore sickness; for the paralytic’s heavy load of sins aggravated the long-drawn agony of disease. A question addressed to the sufferer hinted to him his need: “Wilt thou be healed?” Not a word more; He left him with the question half spoken. For the question was ambiguous; it was because he was sick not only in body but also in soul (compare His later saying: “Behold, thou art cured; sin no more, lest something worse befall thee”) that He asked him: “Do you want to be healed?” What mighty power that implied in the physician, making relief depend only on the patient’s willing! It is because salvation is from faith that He asked “Do you want to be healed?” that his “Yes” might give Jesus His cue. This “Wilt thou?” is the word of Jesus only; it belongs not to doctors who heal the body. For those who treat bodily ailments cannot say to any and every patient: “Wilt thou be healed?” But Jesus grants the will, accepts the faith, and freely bestows the gift.

—St Cyril of Jerusalem, Sermon on the Paralytic

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