Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
In the Gospel reading for today we hear of the healing of two blind men and of a man who was possessed by a demon and was mute.
The Gospel tells us that: ‘When Jesus departed… two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him: “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying: “According to your faith let it be unto you.” And their eyes were opened.’
What a potent image this is… of blind men calling out to Christ for mercy. It is a fitting image of mankind… for we so often go about this life spiritually blind – not seeing the true state of our soul, nor the realities of our actions, inactions, our words, deeds, and thoughts… and their impact upon ourselves and those around us.
And what of the man possessed by the demon? This demon left him unable to utter a word. This too is a fitting image of the maladies of mankind. God listens intently for the utterance of the human heart. But what voice reaches heaven - when our prayers are plagued by distraction, inattention, and all the noise of this world that drowns out the utterance of the heart?
It was by the great mercy and compassion of our Lord, that he went about healing all those who were sick. The evangelist Matthew aptly summarizes the work of Christ’s ministry saying: ‘Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this indeed was our Lord’s work while He walked upon this earth: to teach, to preach the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to heal every sickness and disease among the people. Christ poured Himself out in compassion and in the generous giving of grace to heal and to raise up the people from the sins that bound them, granting instead health and life-giving freedom.
And this ministry of Christ – to teach, to preach the gospel of the kingdom, and to heal every sickness and every disease among the people – this remains the work of the Lord and is the primary work of His Church.
The Church must teach – faithfully imparting the living inheritance of the words of life which Christ delivered to the Apostles and the Apostles delivered to those after them and so on continuing to our own day. That teaching must prepare and strengthen the Christian to receive the ‘gospel of the kingdom’… the revelation of faith, hope, and love which removes the scales from our eyes to begin to see and experience that kingdom of God which is so far beyond this world and yet which also resides within the human soul.
What blinds us to this revelation and to this realization of the kingdom of God?
It is our lack of health. It is appropriate and important to understand sin and our fallen state as an illness. Our fallenness is not ‘who we are’ and it is not irredeemable. We have been created for incorruption and immortality. And Jesus Christ - through His incarnation, His triumph over sin and temptation, through His death and resurrection – He opens unto us the path of grace which can restore us to health.
Many of the saints have likened the Church to a spiritual hospital. St. John Chrysostom emphasizes that the Church is a hospital and not a court room. We enter into the Church not so much as the accused before the Judge, but as the unhealthy before the Physician.
This is an accurate and practical perspective by which we should look upon our situation. Like so many of the people Christ encountered in the Gospels, we too suffer from infirmities – spiritually blind, deaf, mute, lame, paralyzed, and maybe even spiritually dead. And yet, in understanding our disease, we may take great hope - for it is those who are sick that Christ came to heal! ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’
Christ, the Great Physician, calls us to health and wholeness. And thus, the Church is equipped with the medicines of immortality… Confession, Anointing, Blessings, and Holy Communion. These are the medicines given to us for our ailments of body and soul.
And just as someone who is suffering from physical ill health is ever aware of his infirmity, groans under the weight of it, longs for health and stops at nothing to find a cure… so too should we understand our spiritual infirmities: we too should groan under the weight of this burden, long for health and wholeness, and we should have great zeal to seek our cure to become what we were created to be.
Orthodox Christians!... We must not be blind to the wonder of who we were created to be. The world tries to pull the wool over our eyes causing us to lose sight of God and of the glories and miracles of a life lived within the grace of the kingdom of God.
Let us avail ourselves of the richness of the kingdom of God, of the good news of the Gospel of Christ. Let us immerse ourselves, as much as we can, in daily prayer, in reading scripture and the lives and writings of saints… these things remove that worldly wool over our eyes and allow us to see God’s creation as it really is. And let us never be far from the medicines of the Church: her blessings, anointings, Confession, and Holy Communion – which bring healing of soul and body to our infirmities.
God grant us the wisdom to know the state of our soul, and may He then grant us the humility and courage to seek the needed cure.