The Humble Faith of Those Who Face the Truth: Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Luke in the Orthodox Church

Luke 8:41-56

             There are times when reality slaps us in the face and reveals the weakness and brokenness of our lives.  There are many different ways to respond to such challenges that range from ignoring them to wrestling seriously with how to find strength and healing.  Today’s gospel reading provides us with examples of how to use such situations to help us share more fully in the life of Christ.

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 also 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 very worst day of their lives, Jairus and his wife somehow found the strength to trust in Christ’s promise, which enabled them to receive a miracle well beyond all reasonable expectations.

Something similar occurred 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 because she did not want to draw 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 who naively thought that all was well.  Jairus and his wife, as well as the bleeding woman, were at the end of their ropes.  They had no idea how they could be delivered from the tragic circumstances in which they found themselves.  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 their pain and fear were beyond words.

The woman did not say anything until after 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.  That was likely the most difficult and embarrassing moment of her life.  In response, the Lord said, “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.  After He did so, “her parents were amazed; but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.” Their faith, however small and imperfect, was all that the Savior needed to work an extraordinary 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.  In doing so, He provided signs of His fulfillment and restoration of the human person in the image and likeness of God.  Our ultimate calling is not to suffering and death, but to the blessedness of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. To respond to that sublime vocation is not, however, an easy thing, for corruption and weakness in all their forms are more deeply rooted within us than we like to recognize.  Many of us have become experts in distracting ourselves from facing such uncomfortable truths.

The Lord met the needs of the bleeding woman and Jairus’s family when they had to face the most uncomfortable of truths.  They were at their lowest point, the brink of complete despair.  According to the conventional wisdom, 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. Somehow, they acquired the humility to expose their brokenness to Him.  In doing so, they entrusted themselves to Him and acknowledged that they were not in full control of their lives, for they needed healing and mercy that they could not give themselves.

We must learn from their blessed examples to offer the struggles of our lives to Christ in the same way.  Instead of keeping our heads in the sand and assuming that our problems will magically disappear if we ignore them or otherwise pretending that all is well, we must cultivate the humble trust 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 will have the last word about any circumstance, we must offer even our deepest pains and most embarrassing weaknesses for Him to heal.  We must persist in entrusting ourselves and our loved ones to Christ, especially when the conventional wisdom tells us simply to give up.  Otherwise, we will never acquire the faith necessary to receive the divine mercy of the One Who has conquered even the grave.

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 our pain, weakness, loss, and fear, 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 our open wounds, as well as to those of our loved ones and our world.  That does not require perfect faith, but persistence in opening ourselves 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 when it obviously is not; 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 with brutal honesty, if we are ever to acquire the humble faith necessary to enter into the joy of those who hear the Lord say, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” and “Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well.”  The question is not whether the Savior wants to fulfill His gracious purposes for us, but whether we will open ourselves to receive His healing mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

4 comments:

  1. Father, bless.

    This is the part of your message last week that meant the most: “we must cultivate the humble trust 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 will have the last word about any circumstance, we must offer even our deepest pains and most embarrassing weaknesses for Him to heal.”

    I’ve been struggling with the idea that I may not be in the job that I’m meant to do. (After years of working in schools with lower-economic status kids, I am now in a rich suburb) But as I’m working through this, I remind myself every morning to ask Christ to let me touch the hem of His garment and heal me.

    Then in your message for today (11/14/21), you talk about how everyone is our neighbor. We usually apply this to the poor and needy and disenfranchised…but maybe (for me, right now) this neighbor includes the rich who seem to have everything.

    I thank God for you, Father

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