Faith, spoken and silent.
Homily 235 –Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
November 6, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Two healings. Very different circumstances. Same common denominator.
The leader of the synagogue was looking for healing for his daughter. She was 12, and wouldn’t be declared a woman for a couple of years yet. That meant in Jewish terms that she wasn’t yet a person.
Yet, she was dying. An unknown ailment had afflicted her. And a father’s love knows no bounds, no dogma, no right or wrong method. So, he sought out the person he had heard about. A healer, a prophet, perhaps even the Messiah.
He was a very senior – very important – man. As president of the synagogue, he was influential not just in the religious community, but in the community at large. This man, this father, was humble enough to seek out what he could not provide.
Healing for his daughter.
There was also this woman. She was afflicted with a flow of blood. We again don’t exactly know the ailment, and neither did anyone in the woman’s community. The best physicians couldn’t do anything. It sounds a bit like hemophilia, but that really isn’t the point.
She had been afflicted as long as the ruler’s daughter had been alive. She had tried everything the world had to offer.
The circumstances were very different, yet similar. Healing was needed. Physical healing. What we might call a universal healing. A holistic healing.
What they both had in common – this religious ruler and hemorrhagic woman – was faith.
One, a faith expressed in words – come to my house, and heal my daughter.
The other, a faith expressed in actions. If I can only touch the Master’s clothes.
Perhaps they had already seen miracles performed. Perhaps they had observed the power, the presence of the Master.
Regardless of how they learned of it, they knew one thing for certain. They were desperate, and they believed this man – this Christ – had the ability to perform the miracle they needed.
This woman with the hemorrhage of blood was, to be sure, unclean. She shouldn’t have been in that crowd – for every person she came into contact with was ritually impure, unable to partake of the blessings of the worship ritual of the Jewish world.
Which brings up a bit of a side point.
People sometimes ask about their own health conditions – bleeding being one – and if that might preclude them from the receiving of communion.
For those of us who serve on the altar the requirement is somewhat more restrictive. We cannot serve if there is an open wound, bleeding. Now this is not because we are impure in any way – but rather to insure that no one can accuse us of having blood involved in our worship.
For ours is a bloodless worship.
For others, my own guidance is that we are all unworthy – each and every one of us. And we cannot be made worthy of our own accord.
Rather regardless of our condition, we are made pure, made worthy, by our faith in Christ.
The hemorrhagic woman was made whole. The ruler’s daughter was healed. Both found healing, and even being raised from the dead.
So in my view, there is absolutely no reason to refrain from regular communion. There is no tie between our physical condition, our confession, or anything else to keep us from the table the Lord has set in our presence.
That’s not to say that regular confession isn’t important, or that daily prayer and daily ascetic practices aren’t important. Far from it!
But communion isn’t a reward for our good behavior, nor a punishment for our bad behavior.
It is the bread, the food, the very essence of life.
And if we, believers in the Son of God, approach Him with faith, he doesn’t just make us worthy.
He makes us whole. He gives himself to us. In the bread, and the wine.
And in the air, and the sun, and the seas and the land. And – the love. He gives it to everyone.
But to us, his children, his brothers and sisters, he gives something very special – recognition. Illumination. He opens our eyes to the understanding that everything, all of creation, expresses His love for us.
He allows us to see Himself in the creation around us. The heavens declare his glory. The rain and thunder tells of his power. The sunshine reveals his presence. Everything tells us of Him.
This is the faith of the President of the synagogue and the hemorrhagic woman. This is the faith of our Fathers. This is the faith of the Church.
That Jesus, called Anointed, called Emmanuel, is indeed the Son of God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!