In this morning’s Gospel we hear this: And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Himself and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight and glorified God.
In the Gospels we hear time and time again of a sick person coming to Our Saviour and asking for healing. One common feature that is found most often is that the sick person has exhausted all human help. They have been to numerous physicians, tried various medications and treatments and they are still sick, still infirmed. They have finally given up on human help and so in their desperation and faith, they turn to Christ with all their heart and ask Him to heal them. And I would say, that this is what Christ has been waiting for.
In the Gospels, the kind of faith that brought people to Christ asking to do the impossible was the fact that they cried for help out of despair. Not the kind of despair that makes us doubt that God can help, but the certainty, acquired through long years of suffering and struggle, the certainty that no human being can help us.
At last the sick person realizes the truth, the saving truth, the only real truth … that only God can help him
The truth is that if modern medications work, it is because of God’s mercy, if surgery is successful it is because of God’s mercy. All medical and psychological treatment, ultimately depends on God’s mercy.
This is not the pious ramblings of an over-zealous monk but the saving truth of the Gospel.
To help our novice grasp this truth, I encourage them to cross themselves and say The Prayer before taking any medications or treatment. Even if it is just an aspirin for a headache, if that pill works it is because of God’s mercy. Everything is from God, everything is from Christ.
Life and death are in His hands and His hands only! Christ can use our physicians, use our medications and treatments to heal us. Or if it for our salvation, He can allow us to remain sick or if it is our time, to die if that is what’s best for us.
In the lives of the great martyrs we often hear of their extreme tortures, tortures that would normally kill a man. We hear this most clearly in the life of our beloved patron The Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon. He was thrown into the fire, he was stretched out on the wheel and thrown to the lions yet he didn’t die. This is no accident my dear brothers but a very important example of the truth that we are speaking of in the Gospel today. St. Panteleimon could not die, no matter what they did to him … until Christ allowed it. It was Our Saviour who determined when St. Panteleimon would die, not the Roman soldiers or even the Roman governor, no matter what they did.
This is one of the great truths of our holy orthodox faith, that Christ heals the wounded, whether their wounds are physical or spiritual. In fact, to show that he can heal our spiritual wounds, which are far more serious, he heals the sick and even raises the dead! To show fully and without a doubt, that He is indeed The Lord of all.
Christ makes it very clear, throughout the Gospels and the Lives of the Saints, that He is Lord of life and death … And the ultimate proof of this is His own resurrection from the dead!
We must ask ourselves about our own faith: is our faith, when we cry to God for help, is it really bold enough to proclaim that all human efforts have been and shall be in vain and that only God can help us. Can we believe that what is humanly unthinkable can be done by the power of the Living God?
Jesus Christ, Our Saviour raised Lazarus from the dead, after he had been dead for four days. The scriptures even say that he had begun to stink! Yet, Christ raised him from the dead.
This raising of Lazarus, the four days dead, this healing of the woman in today’s Gospel who had been bent over in pain for eighteen years, these are all the clear examples of the miraculous power of Christ over life and death.
We people of the Orthodox Faith, if we are true to our faith and really believe the Gospels and the lives of the saints must proclaim that Jesus Christ is indeed the Lord of life and death.
We are not bound by the limitations of this physical world.
Our holy faith is built on the miraculous, the transcendent and sublime event that the invisible God Himself became man and walked among us. He was born of a Virgin and was raised from the dead. And again after His resurrection He walked among us in His new and resurrected body until His glorious Ascension into heaven.
This is our faith, based on miracles and filled with miracles. This is the saving truth of the Gospel and the saving truth that our Holy Orthodox Church has proclaimed throughout time.
The healing of this woman who was infirmed for eighteen years that we just heard about in today’s Gospel is only a reflection of the great miraculous event of the coming of the God-man Jesus Christ. Who is not bound by our time and space.
The healing of this woman and all healing, is from Christ who has conquered death. My dear brothers, He is our only true hope.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.