Hope for Jairus, the Bleeding Woman, and Other People at the End of Their Rope: Homily for the Synaxis of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and All the Bodiless Powers of Heaven and the Seventh Sunday of Luke in the Orthodox Church

Hebrews 2:2-10; Luke 8:41-56

           Some people think that pursuing the Christian life should be an easy endeavor of good feelings and success that requires little struggle.  If we think that everything is going our way in life, perhaps it could be very appealing to fall prey to the temptation of thinking like that. Of course, that kind of faith is actually very weak and cannot hold up when reality slaps us in the face.  We need to gain the spiritual strength to follow our Lord as people whose souls are far from healed in a world that remains enslaved to the fear of death

In today’s gospel reading, the people who sought help from Christ had no illusions about everything going their way.  Jairus and his wife were put to the ultimate test when the Lord said of their daughter, “Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well…[and] “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.”  We have no idea what Jairus had thought about Christ other than that he knelt before Him and asked Him to come to his house, where his daughter was dying.  After she had died, whatever faith he had was surely stretched to the breaking point.

We do not really know how Jairus and his wife responded to the Lord’s challenge to believe that their daughter would return to life and health.  Nonetheless, they had enough faith to go into their house with the Messiah Who had promised to save their daughter if they believed and did not fear.  Mourning and weeping had already begun, and others laughed at the Savior for saying, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.”   In the midst of the worst day of their lives, Jairus and his wife somehow found the strength to trust in Christ’s word, which enabled them to receive a miracle well beyond all reasonable expectations.

We see something similar with the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She had impoverished herself by spending all her money on physicians who could not help her. There was no medical cure for her condition, which also made her ritually and socially unclean.  She was isolated, poor, and miserable.  All that we know about her attitude toward Christ is that she reached out and touched the hem of His garment in the midst of a large crowd in hopes of not drawing attention to herself.  When the Lord announced that someone had touched Him, she knew that her secret was out.  Then she “came trembling, and falling down before Him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.”  When she openly confessed what Christ had done for her, He said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

These are not accounts of people with superficial faith or who naively assumed that they would always get what they wanted in life from God.  Both the bleeding woman and Jairus were at the end of their rope.  They faced circumstances so dark that they could not imagine how they would be delivered from them.  The gravity of their challenges is reflected by how little these characters speak in their encounters with Christ. They did not use many words to show whatever level of faith they had in Him, perhaps because what was at stake was beyond their ability to name.

The woman did not say anything until after she her healing, which came through the only small gesture of faith that she had the strength to make:  reaching out to touch the hem of the Savior’s garment in the middle of a crowd.  She was healed instantly, but spoke only after she had been found out.  She did so with fear and trembling, falling down before the Lord and stating publicly why she had reached out for healing.  Imagine how difficult and embarrassing that must have been for her.  The Lord responded, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Jairus had asked Christ to come to his house where his daughter was dying, but he and his wife probably struggled in stunned silence to believe that the Lord could actually raise her from the dead.  We read that “her parents were amazed; but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.” Their faith, however small, was all that the Savior needed to work an unbelievable miracle.

The Lord Who rose from the dead in order to make us participants in His eternal life showed mercy throughout His earthly ministry to people who suffered from death and disease in the world as we know it.  When he healed and raised them, he provided a sign of His fulfillment and restoration of the human person in the image of God.  To receive His salvation personally is, however, not an easy thing.  His Cross is even more terrifying than any other cruel instrument of capital punishment, for He was nailed to it as the God-Man.  His disciples ran way in fear at His Passion and struggled to accept the unbelievably good news of His resurrection.  They went to their deaths as martyrs out of faithfulness to a Lord Whose kingdom is not of this world.  Countless people have done the same across the centuries to this very day.

The Lord met the needs of the bleeding woman and Jairus’s family when they were at their lowest point, when they were at the brink of complete despair.  By all accounts, they should have simply accepted their deep pains and adjusted to lives of loss.  Somehow, however, they mustered the faith to open their souls to Christ such that they could receive His healing mercy. They acquired the humility to expose their brokenness to Him and to acknowledge that they were not in full control of their lives.  They did so not because their circumstances had gone from good to great, but because their sufferings revealed the truth about where they stood before God as those who needed healing and new life well beyond what they could give themselves.

We must learn to offer the struggles of our lives to Christ in the same way.  Instead of thinking that our problems will magically disappear if we ignore them and pretend that all is well, we must cultivate the faith to reach out to touch the hem of Christ’s garment as best we can, even if we do so with faith only the size of a mustard seed.  Instead of accepting that evil has an unbreakable hold on our souls or any circumstance in life, we must offer even our deepest pains and most embarrassing weaknesses to Him again and again.  That is how we will open ourselves to receive the healing mercy of the Lord in humility.  We must learn to entrust ourselves and our loved ones to Christ, even when we are most strongly tempted simply to give up.  Otherwise, we will never acquire the faith that is necessary to share in His life.  As He said to Jairus and his wife, “Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well.”

As today’s epistle reading teaches, “we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. But we see Jesus, Who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”    Through His resurrection, Christ has made even death itself a point of entry to the joy of the heavenly kingdom.  Instead of being paralyzed by pain, weakness, and loss, we must make them points of contact with the Savior as we reach out and touch the hem of His garment and trust that His healing will extend to us, our loved ones, and our world.  That does not require perfect faith, but persistence in opening ourselves as best we can to receive His blessing with the humility of people who know that we cannot save ourselves or anyone else.  There is no point in pretending that all is well; that was true for the bleeding woman and for Jairus, and it is also true for us.  We must face the reality of our own brokenness, if we are ever to acquire the faith necessary to embrace our salvation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you, Fr Philip.
    Your homilies are a weekly blessing to us.
    Thank you for sending them each week. We like to share them, too.
    God bless you,
    Mark & Rhoda

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