The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (8:41-56)
There is a wonderful simplicity and beauty to the Christian faith that is often overlooked or obscured. We get hung up on so many different things that it becomes easy to miss the point of everything. The main point of everything in the life of a Christian is not an idea but a person. The person of Jesus Christ. He is the beauty of our Christian faith. He is the beauty of life itself, because without Our Lord Jesus Christ, everything ceases to have life. Without Christ things are lifeless and quite dull. We see two wonderful examples of the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ in the back to back miracles that we hear in today’s gospel. The sick woman with a flow of blood, as well as the daughter of Jairus, who has just died.
St. Cyril of Alexandria gives us some background on this woman with the issue of blood, and why she wished to remain hidden and in the background, he writes, “What made that sick woman wish to remain hidden? The law of wise Moses imputed impurity to any woman who was suffering from a flow of blood and everywhere called her unclean. Whoever was unclean could not touch any thing that was holy or approach a holy man. For this reason the woman was careful to remain concealed, for fear that having transgressed the law she should have to bear the punishment which it imposed. When she touched, she was healed immediately and without delay.” Commentary on Luke, Homily 45.
St. Ephrem the Syrian writing about this miracle says,
“It was fitting that the faith that shined out brightly in hidden agony was publicly crowned. He wove an eloquent crown for her, because he said to her, “Go in peace.” [Mar 5:34.] The peace he gave was the crown of her victory….This would make known that the peace his mouth wove was the crown that crowned her faith. “Your faith has saved you.” If it was faith that restored her to life, it is clear that he crowned her faith with a crown. This is why he cried out, “Who touched my garments?” [Mar 5:30.] He said this so all the people might know who touched more than anyone else did. She chose to honor him more than others do, first, by approaching from behind, and second, in that she touched the fringe of his cloak. It was also fitting that he would honor her before all of these, she who chose to honor him more than all these. Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 7.10.
I believe that this act of the faithful woman touching the garments of Christ is where we get the tradition of touching the garments of the priest during the great entrance of the Liturgy. It is not an act of reverence for the priest himself. The priest is a mere human being, and quite imperfect, but the image of priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is sacred and holy. So sometimes people show love and reverence for Christ by touching the garments of the priest during the entrance and often they pray silently as they do so.
St. Ephraim continues on this passage saying,
“When the woman with a hemorrhage learned that the Lord said to the leader of the synagogue, “Believe, and your daughter will live,” she thought to herself that he who could bring back the soul of a little girl of twelve into her body would also be able to take away an illness of twelve years and expel it from the body. When she heard him say, “Believe firmly and your daughter will live,” this woman reflected, “I can give the faith he requires as the price.” The healing came forth from his mouth, and he negotiated as its price the faith expressed by the woman’s mouth. He gave a clear healing and demanded a clear price. The healing that came out from his lips could be heard publicly, and he required from the lips a faith openly professed….He who was able to put the continued vitality of twelve years in the body back into its place was also able to arrest and banish from its place a flow of blood that continued for twelve years. He who was able to alleviate one illness was also able to banish another.” Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 7.26.
He puts into perspective for us that we think of many of the miracles of God as great, but the truth is that if we compared them to some of the greatest miracles, such as the miracle of raising the dead back to life, we would then not be shocked at all but simply would marvel with thanksgiving and we would come in true faith and ask the Lord for healing. We do have to remind ourselves that while we pray and hope for healing when we are sick, we understand that true health involves the body, mind and soul. Sometimes our Lord in His wisdom will allow one form of sickness to heal deeper and more difficult illnesses. It is good to pray for health, but we should pray first and foremost for the health of the soul.
As we continue this reading we turn to the second and by all measures, the far greater of the two miracles. The raising of the dead girl back to life. One cannot begin to imagine the pain of losing a young child unless they have gone through this experience. I’m sure that the parents of this girl were at their wits end. Yet the presence of Our Lord changed the whole situation. It is a reminder that if we are in a dark place and we invite the Lord, then that place is full of light. Likewise, if we are in a place that is surrounded by death and we invite the Lord to that place, then the place must be completely overwhelmed with life. Part of the reason that these stories are told of the Lord’s miracles are as a reminder that we should keep all things in perspective, even the worst of situations, even death itself.
St. Ambrose writing about this passage says, “Those who think they are dead will weep for their dead, but when there is faith in resurrection, there is the appearance not of death but of sleep.” Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 6.61-62. He tells us that when people around us die, we should not weep as if they are gone forever. We should weep but this sadness should have something like a hopeful glow. When our loved ones die in Christ, they only appear to sleep. But they are not dead. They continue to live on with the saints in the kingdom. These are the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ for those who love Him and keep His teachings.
St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “Let no one affirm that Christ spoke falsely. To him, as being life by nature, there is nothing dead. Having a firm hope of the resurrection of the dead, we call the dead “those that sleep” for this reason. They will arise in Christ, and as the blessed Paul says, “They live to him,” [Rom 6:8.] because they are about to live. Commentary on Luke, Homily 46.
Let us live a life full of simple faith as we see in faith of the sick woman and Jairus, the father of the little girl. Simple, yet powerful faith in this Jesus who heals diseases, raises the dead and loves us beyond measure. AMEN.