“Since 1368 this Sunday has been dedicated to the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica (1296-1359) . In the earlier period there was on this day a commemoration of the Great Martyr Polycarp of Smyrna (ca. 155), whose feast was transferred from the fixed calendar (23 Feb.). This commemoration, like that of St. Theodore, underlined the connection between Lenten asceticism and the martyr’s vocation. The second Sunday also takes up the theme of the Prodigal Son as a model of repentance.” (The Lenten Triodion, pgs. 52-53)
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Great Lent is Mark 2:1-12 in which the Lord Jesus heals a man of his physical paralysis. Before the man is physically healed, Jesus seeing the paralytic, in compassion pronounces, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
We come to Jesus for many reasons – in the Gospel lesson the paralytic’s friends want from Christ a miraculous healing for their paralyzed friend. We come to him for many reasons, following different paths, moved by different influences and needs. Christ accepts us as we come to Him, but transforms us by forgiving our sins and setting us in a right relationship with God. The paralytic left Christ healed of his sins, forgiven by God in order to live a right relationship with God. We all are to be that paralytic and come to the church for that forgiveness, and not leave the church until we hear those words, “your sins are forgiven you.”
Lent as a season of repentance is the perfect time for us to allow ourselves to be the paralytic and to walk away from the Church, to walk away from being in Christ’s presence, forgiven of our sins.
Father Alexis Trader writes about sin and confession:
“Hence, someone approaching a spiritual father will also be in a repentant state, for as Saint Ambrose put it, even the Lord himself ‘does not forgive anyone, except those who repent.’ Repentance adds new highlights to a darkened face. The repentant or penitent is someone who accuses his sins, rather than excuses them or denies them. This mark of genuine repentance, moreover, explains why the ancient ascetics considered self reproach to be such a fundamental virtue in the Christian life. Patristic texts also describe the penitent as being concerned neither about his appearance nor about his diet, but only about his entreaty that God be merciful to him. This his supplication includes words of true penitence, sighs from the heart, tears of contrition, prostrations, patience, and almsgiving. The repentant also refuse to condemn their brother for any sin. Above all, the repentant are characterized by the meekness and humility necessary to submit to the divine will as well by ‘grief that springs from the love of God.’ When a person is in this state, he can come to his spiritual father, reveal his wound, be admonished, repent, obtain forgiveness and thereby by healed by his restoration to the Body of the Church that takes up the sinner’s burden. Thus by repentance and confession, the Christian who has fallen into sin is restored to his rightful status as a child of God. From the perspective of the confessant, confession of sins is a confession of the truth about himself that makes his soul feel light and free. By confession, the repentant leaves the dark world of dissimulation, denial, and irresponsibility. And as Blessed Augustine so eloquently comments on Psalm 84:12, when truth, even the truthful confession of one’s sinfulness, springs out of the earth, righteousness looks down from heaven. By confessing one’s sins, one already moves toward the truth who is light. In fact, ‘the confession of evil works is the beginning of good works.’ By a sincere confession, the soul is humbled. And above all, the soul is given hope by her most compassionate Savior.” (Ancient Christian Wisdom and Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Therapy, pg. 161)