Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, November 6, 2022
The woman with the issue of blood suffered with her ailment for 12 years. Jairus' daughter died at the age of 12. That's an interesting detail. Was it a deliberate move by the author or authors? Or a coincidence? Who knows? Whether one or the other the number twelve appears often in Holy Scripture signifing wholeness and the power and authority of God. Jesus, through his authority, heals the woman and raises the girl bringing wholeness into their lives.
I want to focus on the woman with the issue of blood today. Her disease was physically and socially debilitating. Her constant loss of blood must have sapped her energy if nothing else. Her bleeding made her unclean, unwanted, ostracized, outcast from Jewish society. She may as well been a leper.
Unlike us, the woman was aware of her underlying problem. Often our wounds are hidden.
We do not want to acknowledge them. We fear the underlying causes of our anxiety and distress and think by burying them in our subconscious they will go away and not trouble us. This is never true. What is hidden will be made known eventually. "Shouted from the house tops," as Jesus predicted. Carl Jung put it like this, "When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate." Often as a physical or mental illness. The body is inextricably connected with soul and spirit. The body knows even when our conscious minds do not.
I believe we are all like this woman, walking around with wounds, bleeding and perhaps infected, and in need of being brought to light. If we choose to pretend they do not exist, we will not find healing. All of us are suffering to one degree or another and it is the suffering we are unaware of that poses the most threat to our well-being.
So, we must muster the courage to look deep within and observe what we find with nonjudgment and compassion. It can be challenging and a little scary to take a good, long look at what is happening under our noses. And yet the benefits are many.
The Elder Thaddeus taught that we should not let anything take away our peace of mind. He believed that peace is our natural state as do many of the Orthodox mothers and fathers. It is unnatural to be anxious and troubled. At the core we are like the deep roots of a tree unmoved by the winds and storms of life. The branches may bend and break, but at the root there is stillness. We can access that place of quiet rest in any situation, any time and any place if we choose to follow one of God's first commandments, "Be still and know that I am God." Then the whole panoply of our internal structure may be enlightened by conscious awareness. We will be able to see the mortal wounds that are draining us of life and also to see that the cure lies within.
We cannot think our way into peace. The unruly mind cannot take us there. As one teacher noted, "We cannot think our way out of a problem we thought ourselves into." Instead we must learn to quiet our minds and allow them to rest from their incessant dialogues, plans, and fables. This cannot be a haphazard practice, but one that is done consistently, day by day, moment by moment and is the heart of all spiritual practice. Once quieted, the way to the heart appears, the eyes of the soul awaken, and the great peaceful place of rest appears. From that place, the solid ground of compassionate consciousness, the healing can begin. There heaven and earth meet. The Lord Jesus, ever present, is there waiting for us.
Yes, this is a difficult path since we are all swimming in a sea of unwept tears and yet, Khalil Gibran strikes a note of hope saying, "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."
The Lord has promised to us a "peace that passes understanding." How many of us have experienced it? I believe this can become our very way of life. The One who promised he would never leave or forsake us is waiting for us to awaken and see and to join him in the quiet and peaceful internal paradise. Rumi writes of it like this, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there." Jesus simply calls it "the kingdom of heaven."