Sunday, May 10, 2009

Nobody Should Be Alone on Mother’s Day

Last Monday I was enjoying breakfast with Presbytera when my phone began to ring. It didn’t stop for about an hour as news traveled throughout Florence of the tragic death of our dear friend Josh Waynick, Father Gregory’s son. When the dust settled we realized that the news was true: Josh Waynick lost his life tragically in a house fire while he was trying to save his dog. And today, his mother is spending mother’s day traveling to bury her son. Please remember Presbytera Laura, and the entire Waynick Family in your prayers. I suspect she will never think of Mother’s Day the same again.

Most of us think of Mother’s Day as a day for us to honor our mothers. We buy flowers, candy, and other gifts to show our mothers just how much they mean to us. In Churches throughout America there are sermons about the importance of mothers and images of the “ideal mother” are preached from the pulpit. After Church mothers are waited on in restaurants and country clubs by their children who love them. As a society we spend so much energy on Mother’s Day honoring our mothers we sometimes forget that there are mothers who don’t celebrate today because they have lost their children.

There are mothers who have no children to bring them out for lunch or to buy flowers and candy. These mothers often spend mother’s day remembering the children they have lost. Our society has too many of these mothers either because war has taken their children or illness or tragic accidents have robbed them of the opportunity of spending time with their children. Too many mothers have no one. They spend the day alone.

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.” (John 5.7) This is the cry of the paralytic in this morning’s Gospel. He waited nearby as year after year other people were healed all the while he remained unable to even drag himself into the pool. We may ask where his mother was. The paralytic seems to have lost his mother. He also was left alone and he suffered for more than thirty-eight years waiting for someone to help him. He spent his days alone.

But he never gave up hope. For thirty-eight years he dragged himself to the pool for the annual healing miracle and for thirty-seven years he left still paralyzed. This year was different because Christ was there waiting to ask him, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5.6) Of course he did! Why else would he drag himself to the pool every year? His problem wasn’t that he didn’t want to be healed, but that he needed help; he couldn’t do it by himself. None of us can.

None of us can go through life totally on our own. We’re not created that way. God made humanity in His image and His image is a community. The Holy Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we are made in the image of God, then we also are expected to exist as a community. That is what makes this morning’s Gospel so challenging for us. If the paralytic lost his mother and father, then where was the rest of the community to help him? It is hard for me to imagine that not one single person stood up after so many years to help this paralyzed man. The Jews were gathered in the Temple for the Feast, just like we are gathered here today in this Church, and still they couldn’t find it in their hearts to help this poor man.

We came here today to be in the presence of God but we are not here alone. We are not here as individuals. Our time with God is not just about having a personal relationship with God. We were created to have a communal relationship with God not to live in isolation. Isolation is what kept the paralytic from being healed. When we remain alone we remain paralyzed. It is even worse when someone comes here and still remains alone in their heart because we have ignored them or we treat them like a stranger. It breaks my heart when I hear people share why they don’t come to this church. We may not like to hear it but there are people, even some Greeks, who feel unwanted and like strangers in this Church. And so they sit at home spiritually paralyzed because they are alone…and we as a Church have let them feel alone.

But we can change that! This year can be different. We can reach out to those who do not come to Church – Orthodox or non-Orthodox – and invite them to come spend some time with God. We can reassure them that they are not alone and that we will be here with them. We all know at least one person we can call this week – someone we haven’t seen in Church in a long time – and invite them back. Maybe we know of a “lost soul” at work who, like the paralytic doesn’t have anyone to help them. Can we possibly sit by for thirty-eight years without reaching out?

For some it has been a really long time since they have attended Church. This year can be different. For many years they have struggled to heal themselves but couldn’t. This year will be different because Christ has not forgotten them just like He never forgot the paralytic. The Gospel says, “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well.” (John 5.6,8-9)

Christ is risen my dear brothers and sisters and He has sent us to help. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20.21) God has sent us, the Church, to bring hope to those in need in and around Florence. If we love God we will go out and take care of those around us.

Mother’s Day should be a day for joy and there will be time for celebrating but we must never forget those who are alone today, mothers and their children. Let us pray to the Lord:

“Lord our God, you who brought back to life the only son of a widow, and who from the Cross made arrangements for the care of Your Own mother, send comfort to those mothers today who have lost their children either through illness, war, accidental death or estrangement. You who from the portico of the Sheep Gate brought health to the paralytic who was alone, bring peace to those who spend this Mother’s Day without their mothers either due to death, distance or estrangement for you are Holy Our God and to You we send up Glory with Your everlasting Father and Your All-Holy Good and Life-Giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.”

Christ is Risen!

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