7th Sunday After Pentecost – Orthodox Homily on Accepting God’s Healing

We witness in the Gospel today the healing of two blind men, as well as that of a man demon-possessed and mute.  Through these life-changing encounters Christ’s power as God is fully revealed.  Responding to the blindmen’s plea for mercy, the God of mercy, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, receives them into His holy presence and heals them.  But the Lord doesn’t perform this great miracle randomly. Rather, like the healing of the paralytic last week, we’re taught a lesson in faith also applicable to our own life in Christ.

Sometimes we assume that it’s God withholding growth or healing from us. We want God to wave a magic wand and make our passions and diseases disappear.  But what we learn through the witness of the Scriptures and the lives of the Saints is that it’s wewho have to be ready and willing to acceptGod’s healing, to draw closer to His near presence, to fan the embers of faith in us, to quicken that desire for more of God, for His intervention into the sin-sick aspects of our life.  Yes, there is a mystery here: sometimes God permits us to go through various trials to strengthen our faith, to help us learn to depend on Him more, to learn to submit ourselves to His will, or, in the case of particular passions hard to cure, to realize our utter dependence on our Savior.  Whether physical or spiritual, we remember God’s reply to St. Paul regarding the ‘thorn’ in his flesh which he besought the Lord to remove from him three times, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).  This may not have been what St. Paul wanted to hear, but the truth of the Lord’s words and His will being accomplished in and through St. Paul strengthened his faith through which God was so greatly glorified.  

Certainly, God is capable of all healing, yet doesn’t heal everyone. He alone sees the big picture. He is bent, foremost, on the healing of our souls and there is a great part for us to play in cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit.  We have to muster the courage to present ourselves to Christ for the healing and increase of faith we need to persevere in prayer, in repentance, in the Sacramental life, in humility and obedience before Christ and the Church if we are to find healing from our passions.  Christ doesn’t run after us, but rather, allows us to get to the breaking point because it is there, in that broken place, that we are most vulnerable, most able to turn to Christ God for the healing, strength, and comfort of the Holy Spirit we need.  

St. John Chrysostom says that Christ doesn’t run after those in need of healing everywhere, lest anyone think He’s healing out of vainglory.  No, Christ’s healing presupposes a participation, a cooperation, from those who needand desirethat healing.  Just as our relationship and communion with Christ God necessitates a participation on our part, a return of love, an act of repentance, a consistent effort to abandon our self-will and follow God’s will for our lives.  

In fact, in most of the healings we see in the Gospels, those in need of healing personally seek out that healing from Christ, a change in their life; a new way of being; they desire to get themselves to Christ.  What we witness over and over is that their desireis strong enough to seek Christ out single-mindedly, to entrust themselves to Him, to humbly acknowledge their need for Him; they desirehealing enough to step forward in faith, to call after Him, to recognize that Christ God is worthy of their trust, that He alone is the Great Physician of our souls and bodies. 

Today we see this humility and single-mindedness exhibited by the two blind men, who seek Jesus out; follow Him, cry out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”  These two men know the Source of mercy—that God alone can show them such mercy, such miraculous healing.  

To test their faith further, Jesus asks them even after such a demonstration of faith and humility, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  And they say to Him, “Yes, Lord.”  But note what Christ says in response, “According to your faith, let it be to you.” Christ’s question has a way of making their faith even stronger, even more apparent, even more of a witness through which God can work, but there’s no mistaking it—theirfaith plays a key role in theirhealing.  

Do you see the involvement, the cooperation of their souls and will here, the relationship which Christ God develops between them and Him? Their volition, their will, was to be healed of their physical infirmity, their blindness, but it demanded ‘eyes’of faith and strength of soul.  

Even still, physicalhealing remains a mystery. For St. Paul, there was something about that ‘thorn’St. Paul ‘needed’ if he was to trust in God for his strength, be humble before Him, and serve God to the amazing extent he did, converting nations to the truth of the Gospel.  Hence God’s words, “My grace is sufficient for you…”  And so it often is with us too.  God knows.

While our physical healing necessarily involves our will, our souls, the inverse is also true: the spiritual healing of our souls involves our bodies, our participation, our presentation of ourselves before God in daily prayer, our getting ourselves and families to the divine services of Christ’s Church, regular Confession, proper preparation for the Eucharist, fasting, so that the ascetic disciplines of the Faith can work noetically in our souls for our deification, healing, salvation.  

When it comes to healing our eternal souls, we know that God desires this above all else.  The truth is that all of us are to one degree or another sin-sick, that is, we’re ‘works in progress;’ as St. Paul says, we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phil. 2:12).  If we’re to grow in our relationship and communion with God, be deified, and find spiritual healing, we need the eyes of faith to see where our spiritual blindness still lies. 

And God gives us a sure and prescribed path for our healing, growth, and salvation through His Church: He teaches us how to pray and fast, and so, we pray daily the prayers of the Church and follow the fasting prescriptions as closely as we can.  He gives us Confession, which, if taken seriously, grants us release from our passions; we make use of the opportunities to participate in the divinely-inspired worship of the Church, assured as we are through the Scriptures and the witness of the Church that this worship is deifying for our souls; we prepare with humility and obedience to receive the Eucharist and never with a spirit of presumption, so that through all these ‘tools’ we may progress in our knowledge and love of God, our healing, and our salvation.

This progress in communion with God is meant to be active, never ‘static,’ never status quo.  To be deified, we cannot be ‘couch potato’ or ‘arm chair’ Christians or be pleased at where we are currently in our spiritual state.  It’s easy to fall into a rut, to avoid the hard ‘spade work’ of mustering the faith to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. How easy it is to prefer our own opinions and ways to those of the Church, taking Orthodoxy on our terms or giving up the spiritual battle, but that’s not Christianity and it won’t bring us the healing and growth we all need in Christ.

The prayers for reception of the Eucharist presuppose Confession as a preparation for worthily receiving Christ’s precious and holy Body and Blood.  Likewise, it’s necessary that we physically fast from food before receiving the Gifts.  And so, through all of these ascetic disciplines, we see that our healing in soul demands that we physically turn to Christ God and come to Him just as the blind men did, crying out, “Son of David,have mercy on us!”

Our ongoing willingness to be healed, to progress in our deification, is integral to our salvation.  We’re saved through a faith that manifests itself thru our actions, the living out of that faith, the pushing of ourselves to live for Christ and prioritize the life in Him above all else in response to His grace and mercy.  We can’t afford to lay aside our struggle against sin and for obedience to what Christ teaches us through His Church. Christ asks the blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  Brothers and sisters, we’ve been shown the way if we would just make use of it.  Do you believe He is able to do this?  Son of David, have mercy on us!

Fr. Robert Miclean

Holy Archangels Orthodox Church

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Healing of the Two Blind Men

Epistle:            Romans 15:1-7            

Gospel:            Matthew 9:27-35