(Matthew 9: 1-8)

When Jesus came to Capernaum, “they brought to Him a Paralytic laying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (verse 2).   Thus, the present Gospel tells us how the Lord begins the process of healing the sick.   Because, as Almighty he saw that sins had caused paralysis, so the Lord first freed the soul of the paralyzed from his sins, so that the body could be healed afterwards.   Some scribes, hearing Jesus forgive the sins of the paralytic, reacted strongly.   But they did not have the courage to protest to the Lord directly, so they said within themselves “This Man blasphemes! But Jesus, knowing their thoughts said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Verses 3-4).

Let us try to briefly examine these words of the Lord to the scribes of the Jews:

"Why do you think evil in your hearts?"

The Lord realized that these thoughts came from their hatred of Him.   Hearts which are full of sinful passions can only produce evil.  The Lord said:  “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.   These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15: 19-20).   And James Adelphotheos writes: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires, and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death (James 1:14-15).   That is why it is very important to stop the evil before it begins.   To prevent a person from engaging the desires and evil thoughts within, so that they will not act on them.   If the heart is pure, then all its senses and life is clear.   That is why the Psalmist pleads with God:  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 50/51, verse 12).

“It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1).   Bad thoughts can be found in every person, for “the mind of man is diligently involved with evil things from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Other evils derive from the world, “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).  Still, others come from the devil directly, who does so with various temptations.  He even dared to try and hurt Jesus Himself!   Even though many kinds of evil thoughts can come, those of us who are Christians, by the grace of God can face them with courage, decisively rejecting them. When wicked things come to mind, it is best to treat them with contempt.  Do not engage them at all.   Let’s try to turn our attention to something else.   More generally, the most effective way to expel bad thoughts is the sense of Christ’s continued presence in our lives and unceasing prayer.   When we pray with warm faith, He moves to free us from the evil thoughts and any hostile force.   We do not forget that Christ, “Who is in you is greater than he-Satan who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  Together with Christ, we always win.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord often said that men must first purify themselves on the inside, so that outwardly they can appear beautiful and pure (see Matthew 23:26).  As Orthodox Christians, let us ally ourselves with Christ to fight against evil thoughts, to keep our hearts cleansed.   Thus we will also serve the blessing of the Lord:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).  Amen.

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