The Healing of two Women

Bishop Seraphim : Homily
The Healing of two Women
24th Sunday after Pentecost
4 November, 2004
Ephesians 2:14-22 ; Luke 8:41-56

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel, when our Saviour was surrounded with people, one woman who had had a hemorrhage that had lasted for many years, and who could find no cure, was so desperate that she sneaked up behind Him, and touched just the hem of His garment. Immediately she was healed. Then our Saviour said : “‘Who touched me ?’” The Apostles answered (to paraphrase) : "Lord, how can You say that ? There is a big crowd around You, and everyone is pushing against You. What do You mean ?"

There is touching, and then there is touching. In this case, our Lord knew very well the faith of the woman who had touched Him. She had strong hope that if she were able just to touch Him, and not disturb Him at all, God would have mercy on her, and heal her. That is exactly what happened. Because of her faith, she was healed by touching the hem of His garment. Every time I hear this passage from the Gospel, it reminds me of the times that I have had the blessing to visit Ukraine. During this past year, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Romania for the first time. When you are in these countries in particular, it is very much like what we just heard and saw in today’s Gospel reading. Our Saviour is surrounded by people who are pressing close to Him. Why are they pressing close to Him ? They are trying to get as near as possible to Him in order to receive some sort of blessing. They want to be close to our Saviour, partly because of love, and partly because they want to receive Grace from the Lord God. This woman, in particular, wants healing, and she receives it. If a bishop is going anywhere in Ukraine or in Romania (especially at the end of church services), he becomes surrounded by people. He then has to touch their heads, and they are anxious to touch his vestments in order to take a blessing from the Lord God.

There is a monastery in the village of Putna (in the north of Romania), and the feast-day of this monastery is the Dormition of the Mother of God. I especially remember that on the Feast of the Dormition, there were about 10,000 people there, and three bishops serving (it was out-of-doors, on a special stage). When the bishops left the Altar, it was almost impossible for us bishops to move because the people surrounded us. They were asking for blessings right, left, and centre. It was a Grace-filled moment. For me, in particular, in such moments, it is possible to feel drained because of such a press of people, and because so many people are asking for so much all at once. It is more than a human being can give. This situation forces me, the bishop, to rely on God simply to pass the Grace through me to them as I touch them, and give them the blessings that they are asking for. As a result of that, such an experience is no longer wearying, tiring, and dragging. Instead, it becomes life-giving, and renewing to me. While the bishop is allowing God’s Grace to pass through him to the people, the Lord’s Grace is renewing him ; and the faith of the people is renewing him. As the bishop is giving to the people from God, the people are giving back to him their love, and their faith in Jesus Christ.

This is the way it is in the Body of Christ. The bishop or the priest may give God’s Grace to the people, but the people’s love for Jesus Christ comes back to the priest or the bishop, and renews his strength at the same time. We are all together members of the Body of Christ. In Christ, we are like the building about which the Apostle Paul is writing in the Epistle today. We are all together supporting and strengthening each other, no matter what is our function in the Body of Christ. We all need each other. We all support each other. We all strengthen each other. We pray for each other. We nurture each other. We encourage each other in the love of Jesus Christ.

Today, our Lord resurrects the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. Everyone knew that the girl was dead. However, our Saviour had more things to show them. People think that they know everything, but they do not. They think that we are limited by a normal, average way of life, and when people die – that is it. There are two reasons why our Saviour did what He did. In raising the little girl from the dead, our Saviour reveals that He, Himself, is the Lord of the living, and not of the dead, and that He is the Giver of life (see Matthew 22:32). However, this does not mean that when anyone dies, the Lord abandons him/her. On the contrary, when people die, this is not the moment of eternal death or ceasing to be. Rather, after death we live in a different manner. Our Lord shows us Who He is. He shows us that His love for us is bringing this same life, and this same resurrection from the dead in the future as well as in the present. In her rising from the dead, He shows us what was coming with His own rising from the dead.

Our Saviour is also assuring you and me that, in our love for Him, we can have confidence that, as He has promised us, the resurrection from the dead really will happen. We can have confidence that it really will happen. If we love Jesus Christ, and if we are alive in Jesus Christ, then His Resurrection will be to eternal life for us. That is our hope for ourselves, and it is our hope for everyone we love. Because of the love of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and life eternal in Him are, in His love, possible.

Our Lord is calling you and me to live in love with Him. This means that as much as possible, we should be trying to live a life of purity and of cleanness. There are no human beings who do not sin ; but, in confession and Holy Communion, we have the way to healing and cleansing from sin. Our Lord gives us the possibility to renew our baptism in confession and in Holy Communion. If we slip, we can be healed, and cleansed from the dirt of sin. We can be renewed in confessing our sins, and in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. This enables us to do better. The way of the Orthodox Christian, the way of the Gospel, the way of Jesus Christ is not the way of the world. It is not the way of secular Canada. People very often make fun of those who try to do what is right, who try to live in accordance with what is right, and who try to follow the way of our Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the mocking, let us persevere in the love of Jesus Christ. Let us keep on doing and being what is right. With God’s help, let us not worry if people make fun of us or if they say negative things about us. Let us pray, saying : “Lord have mercy” for those who do not like us, and for those who are abusing us (as in the last phrases of the Beatitudes that we sang this morning). If we, in Christ, through praying for others, can find the way to forgive them, then we open the door for them to find the same strength, the same hope, the same love in Jesus Christ that sustains us. It is this love that enables us to overcome all sorts of pain, betrayals, and difficulties in human life

Brothers and sisters, our Saviour is with us here today. He is giving Himself to us in this Divine Liturgy. We are here because we love Him. He is offering Himself to us because He loves us. In effect, He is saying to you, and to me : “Come to Me, all you that labour, and all you that are weary in your labour, and I will give you rest” (see Matthew 11:28). Let us come to Him this morning. Let us receive Him. Let us allow Him to give us rest and peace in our hearts. Let us allow Him to give us hope in our lives, so that we may have strength to carry on, and to glorify Him today, tomorrow, the next day, and the rest of our lives : Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.