Homily 238 –Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 27, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The ruler of the synagogue was only doing his job.
The rules were clear. The sabbath was no time for work. Work was prohibited. Against the rules. Not just the minutia, but the primary ones – one of the 10 commandments.
When Jesus healed this woman, bent over for 18 years, that obviously was work, and work was not allowed on this day.
We may at times find the Jewish viewpoint as almost comical. The allegiance to the rules is something that we don’t understand.
Yet it was nothing of the sort. And we should try to understand the true significance.
To the Jewish people, the chosen ones of the one true God, the obedience to Him was nothing short of the path to salvation. It was the gratitude they offered for deliverance from Egypt. From Babylon.
This was the God that gave them their land. Their home.
This was the God that gave them their freedom.
When Moses, the great God-chosen leader, went on Mount Sinai, and heard from God that there should be no work on the Sabbath, to keep it holy, they took that seriously.
So seriously that they developed a set of guidelines, which had the same force and effect, to prevent them from any transgression of this demand.
That was, after all, their part of the bargain.
And when the woman, bent over with the cares of the world, came into the Temple, it created tension between two different good things.
Compassion, and obedience.
And Jesus, the Creator of everything, including the Law, set the record straight.
Compassion would win out over obedience. Compassion is obedience.
Some of the Jewish lawyers of the day had begun to use the law as an excuse to avoid compassion. There was a principle that Jesus mentioned about the goods that would have been used to support parents would be given to the Temple. And that was OK.
It was in accordance with the law, at least as interpreted by the lawyers. But it wasn’t compassionate. It enabled people to avoid caring for their parents – a commandment also numbered among the Ten.
And we do this today. We take the disciplines of our faith, our expressions of devotion, and use them in ways that God never intended.
We focus on our fasting and ignore the efforts of our hosts. We neglect those in need so that we can get to Church.
We refuse to help our neighbors because of something in their lives that we perceive as wrong. Perhaps they are living together outside of marriage. Maybe they support abortion. Maybe they don’t worship the same way that we do.
None of those things are excuses worthy of denying compassion. What Jesus shows us is that there are no excuses worthy of denying compassion.
Not even our own salvation is worthy of denying compassion to another.
St. Paul writes that we are created for good works. We are created for compassion. We are created for helping. We are created to care.
We are created for love, in the image of our Creator.
To love as He loves.
We are not created for self-preservation. We are not created for self-interest.
Jesus tells us as much – if someone asks for our coat, we give them our shirt also. If someone compels us to go one mile, we are to go two.
If we see a need, it is Christ’s commandment to us to meet that need, if we are able.
Here, Jesus demonstrates that. He heals the woman. He delivers his child from the 18 year long affliction.
And in so doing, shows the world, which he created, the way to salvation. The way to completion.
During this season of fasting, we can first focus on our compassion. Our hospitality. Our love. Then, with those firmly in place, we can, like this daughter of Abraham, find our healing.
And our salvation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!