Helping the inwardly paralyzed
Commenting on the Psalm-verse, “I have been young and now am old, and I have not seen a just man forsaken nor his seed seeking bread” (Ps 36:25), St. Augustine expected that some would deny, from personal experience or even from biblical examples, that such is the case: just people have been forsaken and their children begging for bread. At which point Augustine gives a wonderful image of the preacher’s role in uncovering biblical texts and bringing people before Christ:
“When a person is thinking in this way, all his limbs are slack and unable to do what is good. Can we lift him up like a paralytic and open the roof of this Scriptural text and lower him before the Lord? You see that the text is obscure, and if it’s obscure, it has a roof over it. I see someone who is a paralytic in mind, and I see this roof, and under this roof I know that Christ is hidden. As much as I can I will do what was praised in those who opened the roof and lowered the paralytic before Christ so that he could say to him: “Be of good heart, son; your sins are forgiven you” (Mt 9:2). In this way he healed the inner man from his paralysis, forgiving his sins and strengthening his faith. But there were people there who did not have eyes to see that the man’s inner paralysis had already been healed, and they thought that the physician who had healed him was blaspheming. “Who is this,” they say, “who forgives sinns. He is blaspheming. Who except God can forgive sins?” And because he was God, he heard them thinking such things. They were thinking something true about God, but they could not see God present. That is why that physician did something for the paralytics’s body, too, so that he could also heal the inner paralysis of those who were saying such things. He did something they could see and gave them something they could believe. Well then, if you are so weak and ill that when you see examples of people suffering you wish to stop doing the good, you are suffering from an inner paralysis. Let us try, if we can, to remove the roof and lower you before the Lord” (Augustine, Enar. in Ps 36/3, 3; PL 36, 385).