Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent (11/26/17)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Last week, we heard the story about a fool. This morning, we heard a story about a woman who had been afflicted for eighteen years. Her illness was chronic and incurable. The poor woman could not even lift herself up to look at anyone. She was an unfortunate wretch who was an object of pity.

Jesus and His disciples had traveled through her city in Peraea, on their way from Galilee to Judea. They entered the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach because that was the Lord’s practice; to be in the Synagogue every Sabbath.

Notice that when Jesus saw her, He called her to Himself. It does not appear that she made any request to Him for healing, or expected anything from Him; but before she called He answered.

After Jesus’ tender touch, for the first time in eighteen years, this “daughter of Abraham” straightened her back, stretched to her full height, and, among the sons of Abraham, who perhaps now hung their heads in shame, she held her head high to the glory of God. Nothing honors the Savior any more than a heart of gratitude and a spirit of praise. Now, the Scripture was fulfilled, for Psalm 146:8 says, “The Lord raises those that are bowed down.” Although man cannot make straight that which God has made crooked, yet the grace of God can make straight that which the sin of man has made crooked.

We do not know why this woman had been bound by Satan. She apparently was not an immoral person, as she was a regular attendant at the synagogue despite her condition. It was at the synagogue that the Great Physician said to her, “Be loosed.” He laid His hands on her and immediately she was made straight, and subsequently glorified God.

Jesus’ touch upon the woman was not essential but was an aid to her faith. It was personal contact. And personal contact with Him is the important thing for us also. Sometimes, in times of trouble, we feel that the Lord is not with us, that He has abandoned us. If we feel this way, it is because we truly do not believe; because our faith is weak or is not there at all. How many of us are like the woman in today’s Gospel, who comes not seeking anything from the Lord but nevertheless is singled out by Him and healed?

The ruler of the synagogue rebuked her sharply, yet the woman had not come to the synagogue with any intention of being healed. The reaction of the religious ruler was strange indeed. He was more interested in the rule than he was in the fact that a poor woman, who had been shackled for eighteen years with an infirmity, had been freed.

The Sabbath question was the most important issue to these religious rulers. Yet, Sabbath prohibitions had become a burden too great to bear. The Sabbath question is still one of heated debate today. Jesus’ reply was that the Sabbath was not intended to prevent works of necessity or mercy. The application of this truth is as follows: some jobs today require Sunday employment, such as hospitals, law enforcement, and fire-fighting. Most other jobs, however, can often be performed on other days, even though Sunday itself is not to be kept as the Jewish Sabbath.

For Christians, Saturday is still the Sabbath. It is the day on which God rested after having completed His works of creation. It is also the day on which Jesus rested in the tomb after His crucifixion and death. On the Saturday Sabbath, we should refrain from unnecessary labor and remember not only the great works of the Lord, but the faithful departed as well. It is for this reason that in our Italo-Greek tradition the Church offers memorial services for the dead every Saturday after the Divine Liturgy.

Sunday, however, is the day of Christ’s Resurrection. It is the first day of the week, and it is also the “Eighth Day.” Sunday is the day “beyond nature and time” (St. Maximos the Confessor), “the beginning of another world” (St. Barnabas). “Whether you call it day, or whether you call it eternity, you express the same idea” (St. Basil the Great). For Orthodox Catholic Christians, every Sunday is a holy day of obligation.

Sunday is a day of worship and thanksgiving; it is the Lord’s Day” and we should observe it accordingly. First and foremost, we honor God by faithful attendance at Divine Liturgy, the solemn celebration of the Eucharist. Secondly, we spend time with family, primarily gathered together at the dinner table. We should not needlessly or deliberately violate these precepts, except for good reason. Remember, beloved, that if it was not for God’s goodness, mercy, and love, and Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we would not have jobs to go to, or basketball, softball, and soccer games for our children to play and compete in, or picnics and barbeques to enjoy.

The important thing to learn is not to argue or debate about religion, but rather, to learn to live it. Religion is about love, religion is about God, for God IS Love. Without God, there would be no love in the world. Without God, there would be nothing. Love is our natural essence because we were created in the image and likeness of God. In creating us, God honored and endowed us with Himself.

Many people who witnessed Jesus heal the woman were shocked and taken aback when Jesus called her“a daughter of Abraham,” since such a description is usually reserved for the “sons” of Abraham. In front of all the upright religious folk, Jesus gave this humble woman a place of honor when He confirmed that she, too, belonged to the family of Abraham. We are all the children of Abraham and are united together in the love of God.

When the Pharisees chastised the woman, Jesus turned and reprimanded them by recounting the common practice among the Jews, which was not prohibited by ritual law, of watering their cattle on the Sabbath day.  Those cattle that are kept up in the stable are constantly loosed from the stall on the Sabbath day and led away to watering. It would be a cruel thing not to do it. Leaving the cattle alone on the Sabbath day without being fed or watered would be worse than working them. Jesus applied this reality to the present case, saying, “And should not this woman, who was healed with only a touch of the hand and a word, be loosed from a much greater suffering than that which the cattle undergo when they are kept a day without water?” (Luke 13:17).

Jesus had sufficiently shown, not only that it was lawful, but that it was highly fit and proper, to heal this poor woman on the Sabbath day. But the people, although they heard Him gladly, seemed to go no farther with Him. Jesus’ rebuke had its proper effect. His adversaries were ashamed, while His admirers were amazed and rejoiced. Nevertheless, a polarity was developing regarding Jesus.

It is possible to become so religious and callous that you can exclude Jesus from your life too. You may know all the answers and be an expert in argument, but the real question is, “Have you ever let Christ into your heart?” There is no substitution for that. Are you filled with doubts? Are you puzzled or troubled? Are you bent over and weighed down with the burdens of life? Then come to the Lord Jesus Christ with your burdens and sins. You can come to Him anytime. He is ready and waiting to meet your need.

I truly admire the woman in today’s Gospel reading. Even with her pronounced deformity, she was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. I wonder if I would have that kind of courage to be in public with that kind of condition. Even more important she had not allowed her physical condition to impair her relationship with God. She had been this way for eighteen years all bent over and unable to stand up straight. The pain was sometimes severe. Yet, her habit was to be in worship to praise her Maker. That is real and true devotion.

I know people who will miss church if they have a slight headache. Or if there is a threat of a little rain. And if the sun is shining warm and bright on Sunday morning, forget about it! There are so many things one can do when the weather is nice, but getting up early on Sunday morning to go to Church is not one of them, especially if one was out until one or two in the morning drinking, partying, or gambling at the casino. But here was this woman, she was where she was supposed to be on the Sabbath: in the synagogue for worship and prayer. And because she was there, she received a very special blessing from God.

Society has a way dehumanizing us. When we allow this to happen, God disappears from our life. For this reason, Sunday, the Lord’s Day has become insignificant and unimportant to many people. The woman with the bad back is all of you here today. You are here not seeking anything from God. No, you are here because you love Him. You are here because you want to worship Him, to give thanks to Him, and to offer sacrifice to Him through the priest of the Temple. You are here because you want to be here. Sunday may be a holy day of obligation, and you are here to fulfill that obligation, but you understand that it is an obligation born out of love, not merely duty.

St. Luke writes that Jesus was frustrated at the legalism of the Pharisees and Temple rulers: “You Hypocrites! Give me a break! Everyone one of you, do you not untie your donkey, or ox and lead them to drink on the Sabbath? Of course, you do! Why should this woman not receive God’s mercy? “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

This is what the Lord requires of all of us: to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with Him, and to worship Him in spirit and truth all the days of our life. Remember the words of St. Matthew: “The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath and one greater than the Temple is here in your midst.” (Matthew 12:12, 6-7).

Christ is always in our midst; He is always among us. He is here to heal our infirmities and diseases. Like the woman who was ill for eighteen years, we simply need to come to Him. As she faithfully and devotedly went regularly to the Temple, let us too, with true faith and devotion, come faithfully and regularly to this Temple to worship God in spirit and truth, to give thanks to Him, and to be strengthened, healed, and renewed by Him in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist.

Let us keep holy both the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day, not for legal or ritual reasons, but out of love of God and a desire to be one with Him in and through Christ Jesus, our Lord, and Savior.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent (11/19/17)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Last Wednesday, November 15th, we entered the holy season of expectation, anticipation, and preparation known as Advent. On that day too, we began the Nativity Fast, also known as St. Philip’s Fast, because it begins on the day after the Feast of St. Philip. As we begin our journey to the manger, may we immerse ourselves deeply and sincerely into this time of joyful expectation and anticipation of Emmanuel, God with us.

Today, this first Sunday of Advent, we are presented with one of Christ’s parables about a man described by two phrases: A “rich man,” and a “fool.”  On this earth, money talks. Everything is about money. Money can buy you power and respect from a lot of people. Money can buy you friendship. It can help you build a power base so that you can achieve whatever agenda or cause is important to you. In many cases, keep you from going to jail. Money can also make your enemies and opponents go away. But money will not earn you respect from God. It will not cover your sins; nor square you with God, no matter how much money you give to the Church or to charity.

God is not interested in our money, especially when we use it for not so good purposes and when our motives are not so honorable. Certainly, God desires that we use our money for good and to support the works of His Holy Church, but how much money we have does not make God love us more. In fact, God looks very kindly on those who have little or no money because they are less apt to be greedy, self-indulgent, and arrogant.

As I said, God is not impressed with a person’s wealth. And God will call a rich man a fool if he is one, and sometimes He will speak His words through the archpastors and pastors of His Church. If you know of a wealthy person who was chastised for their uncharitable or outlandish behavior by a bishop or priest, you might want to consider that God was speaking through them, saying: “Straighten up, and fly right, before it is too late.”

So, why did God call the rich man in this morning’s Gospel a fool? It is because the man was truly unprepared to live his life the way God intended, and he was totally unprepared to die. That is never good nor is it wise. Ironically, the man thought he had it together. He thought he had a strategic plan for his life, but God said, “You fool!” (Proverbs 14:12). Unlike this foolish man, Jesus provides great insight as to how you can truly live a life that counts, while being prepared if death should come. And death will come, for us all.

So how do we prepare our hearts to truly live life with no regrets? First, invest in what really matters. There is nothing wrong with doing a good job at work and being successful. However, from God’s perspective, being successful does not make one a success.

There is nothing wrong with reflecting on your blessings and strategizing on how to move forward in your life. He did, in fact, have more stuff than he could store. In verses 18-19, he wavers off course. He begins to veer off the road, onto the shoulder and is heading for the woods. Upon think and questioning, he decides to take all his blessings and use them for himself (notice how many times “I” is used).

The sad thing about this fictitious, yet real-life situation is, there was no thought of God and no thought of others. The man thought nothing about God’s work, he only thought of his own work and how it could benefit himself. This man was entirely self-consumed. What did his plans consist of? His plans were to tear down, builder bigger and greater, and lay up his treasures for the future. Sadly, this is the same way many wealthy people think and act today.

Such behavior is called materialism. Materialism is the belief that the highest values and objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress and acquisition. In other words, all that matters in life are the material things that you possess for selfish purposes. So, what does Jesus say about this? Here are a few of His words: “…a man’s life consists not in the abundance of things…,” and, “The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” Loosely translated, Jesus was saying, “There is more to life than your stud.” If this is not God boldly refuting materialism, then I do not know what is.

Today, many people in our culture live lives of excessiveness, even many Christians. This makes for a miserable way to live life and an even worse way to die. Many people die with regrets, but by then, it is too late. A true, meaningful life of impact comes by giving of ourselves and of our resources to others (Ephesians 4:28).

If the man’s barns were too small to hold all that he had in his possession, were there not others with whom he could have shared his blessings? Surely, he had more than enough, and I am sure there were many people living nearby who could have used some help. But the fact is, he did not even care to think about it. He only thought of himself. A true life of impact comes when we are rich toward God by giving and sharing of what we have with others.

The second thing we can do to prepare our hearts to live life with no regrets is to put God at the center of all our plans. The rich man had big plans. Ultimately, his plans were to eat, drink, and be merry. But there is the question: “Where was God in his plans?” He looked at all that he had and all he saw was himself. He was living life as if God did not exist. That is why he was a fool. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” The term “fool” in the Bible speaks not of an intellectual deficiency, but a lack of spiritual discernment. The rich man in our Gospel lesson today felt no obligation to God in the use of his resources or his time. Your relationship with God should be the central influence on all the choices you make and everything you do.

There is a big difference between making a living and making a life. We were not created to amass wealth and material possessions. We were to be in fellowship with our God by our relationship with Him. That is why the Church exists. It is the Body of Christ, in which we live, and of which we are an integral part.

The choices we make in our life are the difference between foolishness and wisdom. We can live our lives for ourselves, pursuing personal comfort, or we can live our lives pursuing God. The choice is ours, but if we make the wrong choice, the consequences could be disastrous.

Children are usually very interested in God and Jesus. They see clearly the importance of faith. As they progress into adolescence and into adulthood, their vision gets distorted concerning the things of God. They become consumed with going places, doing things, buying things, having fun, and playing. Often to the point, they lose sight of what is truly important: loving, serving, and worshipping God.

The rich man possessed things only money can buy, but he lost the only thing that money could not buy: his life.

Finally, the third was we can prepare our hearts for a life of no regrets is to never presume upon the future. Notice how in the Gospel, the rich man thought his surplus would last for “many years”; he thought he had plenty of time. He said, and I paraphrase here: “I am going to retire and party and I am going to do whatever I want to do.” This was a very arrogant assumption, and a fatal one too. Shortly after uttering these words, God says to him: “You fool! This night your life will be required of you.”

The rich man made a big mistake thinking he would be around to enjoy his wealth. He was so wrapped up in making plans for himself and his life of leisure and enjoyment, that he neglected and failed to prepare for death.

The biblical principle here is never to presume upon the future. Make the decision you need to make today! And make them for God, for the Church, and for your salvation. Eternal life is much better than life here on earth. I would rather aspire to a life in heaven than suffer in hell. Suffering in this life is enough to handle. Why would anyone want to risk suffering for eternity?

Life is too short, beloved, not to consider the things of God. Very often, we do not live in the reality that we are one heartbeat, one breath, or one accident away from eternity. If you are not at total peace with God, you can and need to resolve that situation today. You are not promised or guaranteed tomorrow.

God, our Heavenly Father, offers us life today through Jesus Christ, His Son. There is no other way to heaven and paradise than through Christ. Be wise and trust Christ. Put your faith in Him, trust in Him, live in Him.

Everything you have, even your life, is a gift from God. One day your life on earth will end, and everything you possess and own will be left behind. It is in your power now to decide what you will do with your life and your possessions.

The good news is, as long as we are still alive, we are able to make the choices and decisions that will allow us to live a life of no regrets; to live a life that will permit us to live with God forever in eternity. None of us can do anything about yesterday, but we can control and change our choices and attitudes. Having free will, you can decide where your life will go and how you will spend eternity.

As we prepare to welcome Christ, who comes to dwell among us for our salvation, let us reflect upon what is truly important so that we may not hear from the mouth of the Lord: “You fool!”


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Homily for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

It was an ordinary day of commuting to work for Doug Halloran. Every morning he would leave his Upper West Side apartment and walk to the subway station at Columbus Circle. The twenty-year-old law school student made his way down the steps into the station to wait for the train. All of a sudden, something went horribly wrong in the young man’s brain, sending him into a violent seizure. Halloran fell to the ground, got back up again, and started stumbling along the edge of the subway platform. Moments later, he was in-between the tracks on the railway bed, just as the rumbling of an oncoming train started shaking the station.

Some of the people in the subway turned away with their eyes clenched shut against the horror of what was about to happen. Other commuters stood frozen in a sense of utter helplessness. Others were in such a hurry to get to where they needed to go, that they missed the moment altogether. In mere seconds, a young man, with his entire life ahead of him, would meet an unthinkably violent end, and no one could stop it. No one would stop it. Except for the one man who did.

A fifty-year-old construction worker named Hector Gonzalez did the unthinkable. This middle-aged undocumented worker from Mexico, who had very little in common with a white upper-middle-class law student, chose to do what no one else at that scene decided to do: he chose to cross over.

Gonzalez ran across that subway platform, jumped down onto the tracks and covered the young man’s convulsing body with his own. He held him against the ground while the subway train thundered over them. Later, when he was interviewed about the incident, Gonzalez said: “I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help. I did what I felt was right. We’re supposed to come to people’s rescue.”

There is something about that story that is both inspiring and convicting. It is kind of like there is a Law of Love—a Law of profound regard for others which, if we could all live by it, would make this world a very different place than it is.

Do we not all hunger for a better world? Do we not all yearn to know the part we can play in moving toward it? In this sense, perhaps we are all a little like the man who asked Jesus a question in our Gospel Lesson for today. “Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” But then the man took it a bit further. He asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

I think this is a valid question, especially given the mindset of the society in which we live today. Many of us think of “our neighbor” as those persons who live in the houses or apartments on either side of us. But, in the Orthodox Catholic tradition, the definition of “neighbor” means something more. And that is what our Gospel reading this morning attempts to teach us.

Is my neighbor just the person who lives next door, and whose kids play with my kids? Or is my neighbor just someone who looks and thinks like me? Does someone have to live in the same country as I do to be my neighbor? Who exactly is our “neighbor” and exactly what kind of responsibility to have to him or her or them? Are there any limits on this loving your neighbor thing?”

If someone came up to you and asked: “How would you like it if love were the motivating force in your life?” Would you reply: “Sign me up!!!” Or would you ask: “What would that mean in practice? What would it cost me? Surely, you are not talking about jumping in front of a train for a stranger or something crazy like that! There would have to be some boundaries to what I would be required to do. I mean, I like the Law of Love—just as long as it is coupled with the Law of Limits. So, tell me: Who is my neighbor?”

And so, Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man on a journey who is mugged, beat up and left for dead on the side of a road. And the first two people who happen along this poor guy are both of the same race and religion as the half-dead dude in the ditch. They are even religious people. They have read the Law of love as it is written on paper a hundred, maybe a thousand times. They may even think they live by it. But they are in a hurry. And they do not have time to deal with this guy. Also, it would take money to get him to a place where he could be nursed back to health. Better to just leave the helping to someone else.

So, they pass by on the other side and put the whole situation out of their mind. Now, they might feel a little guilty for a couple of minutes, but by the time they have gone around a bend or two in the road they have forgotten all about the man in the ditch. I can relate to this? How about you?

A little time passes by and a Samaritan guy comes along. He is of a different race and religion than the man in the ditch. And neither race of people like one another. As a matter of fact, they are taught to hate each other. They are taught to think of the other as “less than human.” But that does not stop the Samaritan guy from crossing over. He bandaged the other guy’s wounds, pouring his own expensive oil and wine on him. Then he put the guy on his own donkey and took him to a place where he could be taken care of. He went way out of his way and probably missed whatever meeting or appointment he had been headed to. He spent his own money for the guy to stay at the inn and even promised to pay the innkeeper for any extra expense—even though he probably was not particularly wealthy himself.

Jesus is so honest in this parable about how expensive compassion can be. We often talk so sentimentally or idealistically about compassion and love. In fact, we have heard so much about mercy and compassion and love recently, that the words are starting to sound a bit old and worn.

When we really get close to those who are hurting, it almost always costs us something, whether it be time, money, emotional energy or all of the above. Working with other people’s wounds and hurt is a messy business. Investing in people who are in pain knocks us off our normal schedule. It is usually not convenient. It might tangle us up for a long time. In other words, crossing over to help someone in need requires that we deny ourselves a bit.

To do what the man on the subway did or the Good Samaritan means we must die to self. It means we must walk the way of Jesus. Jesus is not telling a simple moralistic story here. He is actually telling us about the heart of God and what He Himself is doing for us. I mean, think about it. Jesus is the Ultimate Good Samaritan!!! We are all in the ditch of brokenness, poverty, and despair. We have all been mugged and robbed of our true humanity. We are all lying on the road half-dead and well on our way to the grave.

God did not have to come rescue us. He could have very rightly set a limit on how much He would do for us. But Jesus shows us that the Law of Love is much bigger than the Law of Limits. God has made the decision to “cross over.” He did not pass on by us and we lay dying on the side of the road. He jumped down onto the tracks, threw His body over the world, and offered us a love without limits.

That road to Jericho that Jesus describes in the parable of the Good Samaritan is the road to Calvary; it is the way to the Cross! Whether you want to admit it or not, beloved, the Cross is very much a part of our life. We cannot have Christ in our life without accepting the Cross as well.

That ditch from Jerusalem to Jericho is a huge one and it is filled to overflowing with human suffering. Can you see the spouse, the child, the friend, the relative, the coworker, the homeless man or woman, the Arab, the black person, the Mexican, the Puerto Rican, the stranger in pain? Can you hear their groans and their cries for help?

Human pain and suffering is so horrible that many of us have learned to close our eyes and ears to it. Some of us feel so helpless sometimes, that we cannot imagine what we could do to make a difference. Some of us are in such a hurry, and our hearts are often so hard. It is natural for us to make excuses and simply “pass by on the other side.”
But that is not the way I want to live my life. How about you?

I want to seek the power and grace to overcome all of that and find a way to let love move me to do something, even if it is costly. I want to be ruled by God’ love, not by a sense of limits nor by what society tells me I can or cannot do when it comes to helping my neighbor. We all need to refute the selfish ways of this world and seek to walk the Way of Jesus.

We must ask the Lord to help us choose to move toward the pain and suffering of others, rather than around it. We must strive, through constant prayer and fasting, and by strengthening ourselves with the Holy Mysteries of Confession and the Eucharist, to be like the Good Samaritan and the Ultimate Good Samaritan.

We must turn God, who is enthroned in this very church, and say to Him: “Lord, I want to love You with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind, and I want to love my neighbor as myself. Accept me, Lord, as Your willing and devoted servant. Do with me what You will. I am Yours. You are Mine. So be it.”


Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Some people argue that miracles, including Jesus’ resurrection, are impossible because nature is a closed system and miracles would, therefore, violate the laws of nature. But John Lennox, mathematician, and professor at Oxford University says that Christians do not claim that Jesus rose by some natural process that violated the laws of nature. Instead, Jesus rose because God injected enormous power from outside the system.

He illustrates by saying, “Suppose I put $1,000 tonight in a drawer in my office. Then I put another $1,000 in tomorrow night. That’s $2,000. On the third day, I open the drawer and I find only $500. Obviously, when you find only $500 in the drawer, the laws of arithmetic have not been broken. $1,000 plus $1,000 still equals $2,000. What those laws tell you is that someone (in this case, probably a thief) has put his hand into the drawer and removed the money from the drawer. The laws of mathematics can’t stop the thief from doing that.”

And so, Lennox concludes, “In the same way, the resurrection of Jesus – and every other miracle – does not negate the laws of nature. The resurrection, or any other miracle, shows that Someone has reached into the drawer of history and removed something – the sting of death. So, unless you have evidence that the system is totally closed, you cannot argue against the possibility of miracles.”

That is what St. Luke is writing about today. He is showing us that Jesus is God in human form who came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus is reaching His hand, as it were, into our time and space to demonstrate His enormous power from outside our system to do miracles and transform lives.

In verse 40, Luke tells us that when Jesus returned, presumably to Capernaum from the country of the Gerasenes, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the crowd welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. Jesus’ entire ministry, with only a handful of exceptions, was conducted in public. People constantly flocked to His ministry of preaching and healing.

In this crowd were two people who desperately wanted Jesus’ help. One was a man; the other was a woman. St. Luke began and ended this narrative with the man and sandwiched the woman’s story in the middle.

St. Luke tells us in verse 41 that there came a man to Jesus named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. He was a respected religious leader in the community and was probably fairly well-off financially too. Luke recorded earlier that in the town of Capernaum, Jesus healed the sick people by laying His hands on every one of them and healing them (4:40). He had also cast demons out of many (4:41) and had even cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue in Capernaum (4:31-35), which Jairus may have witnessed.

Jairus, we learn in verse 42, was extremely concerned, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. We do not know what ailed her, but Jairus went to Jesus seeking His help. Knowing that Jesus had healed others, Jairus believed that Jesus could heal his only daughter.

Falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored Him to come to his house (8:41). Gone was the decorum. Gone was the thought about what others might think of him. His request to Jesus was for Him to come and heal his daughter, which Jesus agreed to do.

Rather than continuing the story of Jairus, St. Luke describes an interruption. Jesus was on His way to Jairus’s house, and His disciples and crowds of people were going with Him. St. Luke says that as Jesus went, the people pressed around Him. And one of the people in the crowd was a woman who had a desperate need of her own.

We are told that this woman had a discharge of blood for twelve years (8:43). Most commentators suggest that she had some kind of uterine hemorrhage. Interestingly, she had been ill for as long as Jairus’s daughter had been alive.

According to the Old Testament Law, a woman with a discharge of blood was considered ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 15:19). She was not allowed to participate in public worship. Moreover, if anyone touched her, that person would be ceremonially unclean, and so it is likely that she had had virtually no physical contact with anyone for twelve years. In addition, though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. In fact, St. Mark, in his Gospel, said that she “had suffered under many physicians, and was no better but rather grew worse” (Mark 5:26).

St. Luke tells us that the woman came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of His garment.  And then an amazing thing happened! She had just touched the fringe of Jesus’ garment and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. She was instantly healed! But Jesus stopped and said, “Who was it that touched Me?” One can almost see all the people bumping into each other. Although people were crowding around Jesus, no one was intentionally touching Him. When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround You and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched Me, for I perceive that power has gone out from Me.”

Biblical scholars and commentators differ in their opinions about whether or not Jesus really knew who had touched Him. I side with those who believe that Jesus did know that the woman had touched Him and that He had healed her by her merely touching His garment. After all, many people were touching Jesus as the crowds surrounded Him, and they were not healed.

Jesus asked who had touched Him, not because He did not know the woman’s identity, but because He wanted to draw this woman out into the open so that she could give a public testimony of God’s powerful work in her life. When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling and falling down before Jesus declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.

God wants His children, like the woman in this morning’s Gospel, and you and me, to give public testimony to His power and saving work in our lives. But Jesus also wanted to assure her about what it means to belong to Him. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Jesus wanted her to know that she was not healed because of some superstitious belief that somehow by touching His garment she would be healed. No. He wanted her to know that it was her faith in Him, timid though it was, that healed her.

Beloved of Christ, you may feel that you are ostracized by God and others. But if like this woman, you come to Jesus, He will heal you and save you from all that afflicts you. No matter what you have done, no matter what you have suffered, Jesus will deliver you and give you His peace.

One can imagine how anxious Jairus must have been as he watched Jesus’ interaction with the woman. His little girl was dying. She was, by all accounts, in critical condition, whereas the woman had a chronic illness. Could not Jesus come back to the woman after He had taken care of Jairus’s daughter?

While Jesus was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” Why the very thing that Jairus feared had happened! If only Jesus had not stopped to talk with the woman, Jairus must have thought to himself, his daughter might now be alive. But Jesus, on hearing this news about Jairus’s daughter, answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”

We should remember that God’s timetable is never the same as ours. It is important for us all to remember that Jesus, even in the most difficult and desperate situations, will not be hurried. We want Jesus to take action when we want or need something, but Jesus is in control. When things do not happen according to our timetable, we think that God does not love us. You see, Jesus knows things that we do not. Jesus has no more trouble healing a dead person than a sick person. He is at work in our lives for His glory and our ultimate good, and not for our present comfort and lack of problems. And so, Jesus tells Jairus to trust Him, even though he feels so terribly distraught about what had just happened to his girl.

As St. Luke continues the story, we are told that when Jesus came to the house, He allowed no one to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. We are not told why no one else was allowed to enter the room. But, it is safe to say that not all miracles God performs in one’s life are meant to be made public, even the most astounding and extraordinary of them. Sometimes these gifts are meant only for the eyes or ears of those intimately involved in the miracle. God gives them a glimpse of Himself or His power which is meant for no one but them.

As Jesus enters the room of the girl with His disciples and the girl’s parents, the professional mourners - family members and neighbors - had all arrived at the house. In the culture of that day, people were buried the same day that they died. All were weeping and mourning for her, but Jesus said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.”

Some have said that Jairus’s daughter was not really dead, but that Jesus correctly understood and said that she was simply sleeping, as if in some sort of coma. However, we know that Jairus’s daughter really was dead because the people laughed at Jesus, mocking Him and scorning Him as if he were insane. They knew that Jairus’s daughter was dead and thought Jesus to be crazy.

In saying that the girl was asleep, Jesus was referring to the fact that He was looking at the death of Jairus’s daughter from God’s perspective. From God’s perspective, it was as if she was simply sleeping. Is it not true that when one of our loved ones has died, we say that he or she has “fallen asleep”?

There is a reason we say that a loved one has fallen asleep when they physically die. It is because, as Orthodox Catholics, we believe that a baptized member of the Body of Christ, when he or she has experienced physical death, is not really dead at all, but merely asleep in the Lord. We know that our bodies will be raised up on the last day and reunited with our souls to stand in final judgment before the throne of Christ, who is King of both the living and the dead. Jesus proves this with Jairus’s daughter.

By taking her by the hand, Jesus called to her, saying, “Child, arise.” We miss a lot in our English translation at this point. First, St. Luke translated Jesus’ Aramaic into Greek, but St. Mark kept the Aramaic. Jesus used the diminutive for “child.” And in that culture, a diminutive was used as a pet name. Literally, Jesus was saying something like, “Honey” or “Sugar” or “Sweetie.” Second, when Jesus said, “Arise,” He was not saying, “Get up from the dead!” He was using a term that simply means, “Get up.”

Basically, what Jesus was doing was what Jairus did every morning when he went into his daughter’s room and took her by the hand and said, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” Do you see the incredible power of Jesus? Death is the greatest enemy we have. Death is our most feared and dreaded enemy. Jesus did not go into the room, roll up His sleeves, recite a bunch of hocus-pocus incantations, wave His coat over the little girl, and raise her back to life. No. Jesus spoke to her as if death was nothing but sleep.

Here is what that means. Jesus is saying that if you believe in Him, then you do not have to be afraid of death. The greatest and final human enemy that we all face – death – is nothing more than a good night’s sleep to Jesus. How many of you here this morning are afraid to die? None of us really want to face death and that is because we see it as something ugly, the end of everything we have and are.

Death is not considerate or nice. Sure, sometimes it comes to us without warning and allows one to die peacefully and without pain or suffering. But this is not death being kind, it is about God intervening and letting death know that it does not have the final say over His children and that its power is not greater than that of God’s. At other times, death shows us how ugly it is by allowing us to linger and suffer, sometimes for days, or weeks, or months. When this happens, it is death trying to destroy our faith and belief in God and win us for its master’s kingdom in hell.

Remember, beloved, that death is not from God but from Satan. It was the devil who brought death to humanity through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Death was never intended to be a part of human existence. We were created to live forever in communion with God. That is why we must fight against it. But how do we fight against such a formidable enemy? We do so by living righteous, holy, and pure lives. We do so by following God’s commandments and doing His work here on earth. If we are faithful and obedient to God, then we will live with Him forever in eternity. Only God can destroy death’s power and this He did by the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

As soon as Jesus told Jairus’s daughter to get up, her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Jesus demonstrated His power over death. Do you know of any human being living today that can do such a thing? Surely, one’s answer to this question can only be “No.” If then only Jesus has the power to bring the dead back to life, why is it that we deny His power and look elsewhere for someone to give us back what has been lost?

Notice the compassion of Jesus as He directed that something should be given her to eat. He knew that she must be hungry after having been ill for a while. St. Luke noted in verse 56 that her parents were amazed, but Jesus charged them to tell no one what had happened. Of course, as soon as the girl stepped out the room, everyone would know that something had happened and that she was alive and no longer dead.

Jesus often told people not to say anything about His miracles because He did not want the people to misunderstand His mission and try to make Him king by force, as they once did try to do. As I mentioned, earlier, there are times when the Lord does not want His work to be known. God will manifest His power in due course, according to His own time and plan.

Jesus calls us to trust Him. We cannot physically see Him, but He calls to us nonetheless and invites us to put our trust and hope in Him. He does not leave us alone, especially in times of trouble, sorrow, and pain. In fact, He is here with us now, present on the Altar in the Most Holy Eucharist.  

Come to visit the Lord every chance you get. Lay your burdens upon His shoulders. And even if everything is going well in your life, come to Him and tell Him so, and thank Him for all the blessings He has bestowed upon you.

Have faith in God always, beloved, for only He can restore what was lost and only He can heal us of our ills.