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!