The Reading is from Mark 2:1-12
At that time, Jesus entered Capernaum and it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is a blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet 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 say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
In the Orthodox context, sickness and suffering are the inevitable consequences of the sinful state of the whole world, which followed from the first sin of Adam and Eve. Because of this fall and infection has spread to all of humanity and through humanity to the entire world.
Sickness is a complex reality and healing is even more complex. Two parts of healing must take place, the physical and the spiritual.
In the Anointing Service on Holy Wednesday we look to heal both the physical and the spiritual. If the spiritual is not healed then the physical healing makes no sense. This is why Jesus first forgave the sins of the person, although our personal sin has nothing to do with our sickness. The ultimate aim of healing is the restoration of communion with God and the Church.
God works through medicine and works through the skill of the doctors and other scientists to help heal the body. However we must never loose sight of the fact that it is God who heals and not the doctor! The physical healing is not an end in itself, the body is healed to be used for the purpose of creation, to glorify God, to hasten the coming of the kingdom, and to witness to the truth of Christ in the Gospels.
Healing and forgiveness are intimately connected and cannot be separated. Forgiveness is mediated through the prayers and anointing with oil in the rite of the Anointing of the Sick. Through the Anointing we hearken back to the grace we received at baptism not for the forgiveness of sin but for new birth, enlightenment, liberation from the slavery of sin, and adoptions as sons and daughters.
This is more than just the healing of the body this is a cosmic event all things are set back in proper perspective. Sin, sickness and death are conquered and made powerless through Christ. Our defeat is transformed into victory as out sufferings are joined to the sufferings and victory of Christ on the cross. The way we suffer and die says more about our Christian faith than any other words or deeds.
All things ultimately die. Even the people that Jesus healed in the Gospels and Lazarus who rose from the dead died again. The goal is the restoration of fallen, sickly and mortal humanity into communion with Christ and with the Church.