A dear priest friend of mine is on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and other holy sites in the area. Recently he and his fellow pilgrims came to the final resting place of Lazarus, the man the Lord raised from the dead. And that got me started thinking about Lazarus and his miraculous healing and then what followed.
You see, Lazarus died a second time and we have his relics with us to this day. Yep, two funerals. As an aside, it is said that the only time Lazarus really smiled after his own resurrection from the dead was when he saw a thief stealing a clay pot. It is reported that he smiled and said “Look, clay stealing clay.”
It is amazing in this day and age of materialism, secularism, and radical autonomy that the religious notion of physical healing still continues to be a focus. But it’s also true of medical science as well. We want to be healed, but we want this healing to be instantaneous, miraculous, and cost us nothing. Doesn’t that say something about us? We want salvation to be the same – Instant, painless, and free. And yet both physical well being AND spiritual well being are NEVER based on magic, but faithful discipline.
In today’s Gospel Lesson Jesus does some amazing things but He teaches truths that are even more amazing. We know this passage as the Beatitudes.
Look at Matthew 4:23-25;5:1-13:
At that time, Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Dekapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.”
The passage starts out saying Jesus is doing three activities throughout the area. He is Teaching, Preaching the “gospel of the kingdom” (significant), and “Healing every disease and every infirmity.” No wonder His fame spread like wildfire through this part of the world! Someone Who does this is certainly going to get people’s attention.
But think about it, every person the Lord healed physically eventually died, just like Lazarus. Every person whose ailment was healed still faced the mortality of their physical body.
That’s why the Lord went on to give us the spiritual healing treasures of these divine Beatitudes. He goes on to reveal to us that physical healing is one thing, but a true and eternal healing of our inner lives is the healing that lasts forever! Become what He says of you in this wonderful list of virtues and faithfulness and you will not only gain an inner salvation, but even your physical body will be caught up in His eternal life at the Resurrection of the dead. Now that’s what I call being Healed! Forever!
Today, why not abandon the narcissistic notion of “Please make my boo boo go away” for the long term joys of a life disciplined and shaped by eternal healing that penetrates to the deepest need of your soul? Why not allow the power of the Holy Spirit to so transform your inner life that your outer life reflects the change inside you? Allow the wisdom of the Faith to reveal you to the world as “Blessed” because of your priorities, choices, and love. This is the only path that truly leads to being Healed! Forever! This is what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. As we said yesterday, our Video Project is well on it’s way to the first hurdle in funding. We need $5000 to be able to shoot the demo video that will (prayerfully) launch the rest of the project. I am convinced that if parishes had a tool they could use after their festivals, after their open houses, with inquirers, with spouses of Orthodox families who aren’t Orthodox, if they had a tool they could use to begin the introduction process and prepare folks for catechism, we could see many more spiritually hungry people find a home in the Orthodox Faith. Would you help me? Just go to www.faithencouraged.org and make a tax deductible gift for our Video Project. Thank you.
Thank you for these wise words.
I must say I’m a bit bewildered by your repudiation of the faithful seeking healing of the body. Yes, obviously the healing of the inner man takes precedence and is of ultimate importance, but we Orthodox have a very strong tradition of encouraging both physical health and divine healing. And it is not “narcissistic” to do so, rather it is holistic, both because the Lord in his compassion desires our well-being, and because as body-soul composites our outer-man must function to fulfill our vocations.
I must say the flavor of your words strike me as both Protestant (either/or mentality) and Gnostic (physical body is of little importance), as opposed to our rich, holistic, Orthodox view of God’s will for our souls and bodies in this life. There is no morbid desire in our tradition to “do nothing” about our “boo-boos.” Why else would one whole sacrament, unction, be devoted to our physical health?
This is not to say that everyone who seeks divine healing will receive it, but that does not negate that our God is a healer, or that we should not bring our physical ailments to Him and also seek wisdom in how to remedy them.
May St. John pray for us, that we be in health and prosper, even as our souls prosper.
Well, James, I must say that if you read this as a repudiation of physical healing, you read it wrong.
However, all physical healing is just a foretaste of the new body of the Resurrection. And that’s a wonderful thing, but, as Jesus said, it is better to enter into heaven maimed than into hell whole. We have enough emphasis on physical comfort in our culture and not nearly enough emphasis on the “askesis” of spiritual healing, which is neither Protestant nor Gnostic.
So, no need to be bewildered.
Glad to hear it, and sorry to have misread. I tend to be passionate about physical healing, as I am in the medical field myself, and have seen the Lord draw many to himself after experiencing His kindness in the way of healing. I don’t feel it’s an area to be abandoned, and am glad you didn’t mean it that way.
Beloved Brother in Christ,
I faithfully and joyfully listen to your inspiring podcasts every week. I forward them to several friends and at times to my proistameno, Fr. Luke Melachrinos, here at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Hempstead, New York. We have a second priest, Fr. Constantin Ursache who was ordained to the priesthood last January and he works heavily with our youth.
I was wondering if you plan to be in the New York area and might be able to visit us. I would like to organize a fall retreat with our board. We comprise some 900-1000 families here and are surrounded by 6 other GO church communities in the county of Nassau with several other Orthodox church communities, (OCA, ROCOR, Antiochian etc.) I think a Saturday all day function would be suitable and I have several faithful, with the permission of Fr. Luke, who would be able to help organize such a function. We would hope you could possibly celebrate the Liturgy on Sunday also. I recognize your responsibilities back home. If this sounds possible, kindly e-mail or call me. My cell is 516-984-0486.
My late grandfather came from Myteline and on my visit to that beautiful island several years ago, I visited that phenomenal monastery which honors the saints of your community. So with invoking their intercession, I pray for the honor of welcoming you as our guest sometime soon.
In His Love,
Deacon Mathew Kakis