The Far Greater Miracle
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, November 8, 2009
Luke 8:41-56 (7th Sunday of Luke)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ!
And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace."
Jesus healed the Woman with the Issue of Blood, but what I want us to consider is that the healing of her body was not the only healing that took place. When Jesus said to her, "Go in peace," another kind of healing occurred. The healing gift of peace was granted. Think of the life this poor woman must have had, suffering for so long from her disease and from its social stigma. How much persecution she must have endured, so many scars, so much pain! She could not even leave her house. She could not be out in public. She was unclean, like a leper. She struggled daily simply to survive. Do you think Jesus came to heal only her body?
"Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well," he said to Jairus as the poor man fell at his feet to ask him to come heal his little daughter who was close to death. The words, "do not fear" were the beginning of the second miracle. This entire Gospel lesson fairly pulses with pain, sorrow and tension. Jairus and everyone in his house were filled with fear. Fear destroys the soul and anguish withers the spirit. Try and consider how you would feel if this were your twelve year old daughter who was dying.
Jesus uttered the third of his healing words as they approached the house and saw the people weeping because Jairus's daughter had already died. Jesus said, "Do not weep, she is only sleeping." It was his intention to heal them all. Jesus would do in the house of Jairus more than one miracle. He would raise the girl to life and heal many broken hearts. He came not only to raise the dead, but to resurrect the soul.
Which miracle do you suppose is the greatest? The greatest work, I propose, happens within. Why else would St. John Climacus say it is a far greater miracle to repent than to raise the dead? Everyone healed by Christ will once again get sick and die. Everyone raised from the dead by Christ will die again. But the soul that is enslaved by the anguish of sin can suffer far longer than the body. The body dies, but every soul by the loving grace of God shares in the gift of immortal life. To be set free from the suffering of the soul in this life which carries a poison that can infect life far beyond death is, for me, the greater of the two miracles.
So many diseases (maybe all of them) have mental origins. We know this. One needs only bring up the disease of depression to understand the influence of mind over matter. Even when our bodies cooperate with us our minds often continue working overtime to defeat us. Both our bodies and our minds are in need of a healing touch.
That Christ can raise the dead and heal the sick is amazing, but that he can cure the mind and the heart and bring the peace we long for, that is, for me, the real miracle. It is, in fact, the point of his coming.
Thank God he is able to cure the paralytic, for all of us from time to time are paralyzed by fear and ignorance.
He casts out demons, but are not all of us beset with forces within that direct our lives without our knowledge or permission?
He raises the dead, but we all live like zombies throughout the majority of our lives, barely awake, barely conscious of the moment in which we live or even the fact that we are alive and breathing? We go for walks and forget where we are going.
He cures the deaf, but are our ears not often closed to God, to our neighbors, to nature, to ourselves?
He cures those who cannot speak, but are we not in a worse condition since we cannot control our rapacious tongues?
Are these interior things less important because they are hidden? Are they less interesting because they are less sensational? We love spectacle. We would have loved it had Jesus turned the stones into bread, dived off the pinnacle of the Temple, or established a Kingdom on earth that would have wiped away the earth's dictators and set himself up as the Great Dictator of the cosmos! How we would have reveled in that! But God is not interested in such things. God does not have issues.
He is interested in real liberation, authentic deliverance, and true and lasting salvation. Bread, miracles and empires will all pass away. What will remain after the healed body gets sick again, those raised from the dead die again, the ecstasies of whipped up emotionalism many mistake for spirituality are reduced to ashes? What remains is the heart still troubled.
If Christ only heals the body, then we still need a savior, one who can reach deep into the heart. We still need someone to bring peace within where so often there is no peace. We need a God who will go into the very pit of hell itself, take us by the hand, and walk us out.
Thankfully, Jesus is that One. The souls in hell who decided to leave with him on Holy Saturday morning still had to get up and walk out. Hell can be a comfortable place if we come to embrace it. It takes courage to change. All that remains is that we summon the little bit of energy necessary to take up our beds and walk.
The way out is the way of faith. It is the path of remembrance of God, recognition of the truth of what it means to be human, the Way of the Cross and the Empty Tomb.
Our path is the Golgotha of our distorted views of God, of ourselves, of one another, and of the whole of life. It is to adopt Christ's way of life, his way of thinking, his way of seeing, and his approach to life. Thus we must let go of the way we think and let go of holding back from God our entire selves. This is what it means to make of ourselves living sacrifices, as St. Paul puts it. We can hold nothing back. Remember Ananias and Saphira in the Acts of the Apostles. Holding back is not a good idea. It is, on a very practical note, the decision to leave behind all that causes suffering and turn life into a life of joy and compassion that aims to alleviate it, for ourselves and for our neighbors.