2011, July 31 — The Healing of the Blind Man

Fr. Robert Miclean
Annapolis Orthodox Mission
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Forefeast of the Procession of the Honorable and Lifegiving Cross of the Lord

Epistle: Romans 15:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 9:27-35

God created us both body and soul and in His image and likeness. He created us for communion with Him who is Life. And this communion is achieved by God’s grace through the putting on of Christ in baptism, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, and then the walking in the way of God through our continued participation and growth in the sacramental life and guidance entrusted to us through His Church.

This is the fulfillment of God’s fore-ordained plan and desire for us, that we should walk with Him in communion with Him. But sin has led us to death, not just physical death, but spiritual death as well. For this reason, because of sin, the world has fallen from the glory and grace God endowed it with in the beginning. There exists sickness and disease, birth defects, demonic attack and possession, and blindness.

Today’s Gospel is one of six healings of blindness that we encounter in the Gospels. That there were many more, there is little doubt. As we hear in today’s Gospel, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching…preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”

Isaiah wrote of today’s healings in his prophesies concerning the Messiah, saying that He would be sent by the Father and His Spirit “to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind” (Isa. 61:1).

This may seem like rather strange wording to us at first. How does one “preach… recovery of sight”? St. Gregory Palamas explains that the Lord’s chief reason for becoming man was not to open man’s physical eyes, but the eyes of his soul, the eyes of his nous, darkened by sin (St. Gregory Palamas, Homily Thirty, “On the Blind Man”).

Because God made us body and soul, He cares for our bodies and their deliverance. Death is the enemy Christ came to slay. But Christ also came to give our souls healing, restoration to eternal life with Him who is Life. So, Christ needed to make a way for us to find spiritual healing and triumph over sin.

St. Paul says that by virtue of our baptism into Christ and our sealing by the Holy Spirit, we become “co-heirs with Christ” (Eph. 1). And “all that Christ has assumed,” says St. Athanasius, “is healed.” But we easily become complacent. Baptism isn’t enough to save us. Salvation is not a momentary, once-and-for-all act. Rather, it’s an ongoing relationship and communion with God. And we call this participation in the Divine Life deification. We’re created for life with God. This and this alone is true life—to be in growing relationship with Him who is life. If we’re not growing, we’re losing ground.

The truth is, we can’t have it our own way. We can’t take a piece of God and still have the world as our primary focus. We can’t serve God and mammon. If we don’t put our trust in God, if we’re not struggling to work out our salvation, realizing what is at stake, then, as Christ says, we will begin to resent or even hate God and all that which is representative of Him and the life that is in Him. The way to healing, is the way of surrender, a cross.

This truth is such a challenge to our modern ears because we’re bombarded with lies from the evil one that tell us that we can be satisfied with just giving God a piece of ourselves and not our whole selves. We may even go to church every Sunday, but the rest of the time we struggle to ever remember God’s calling on our lives or call on Him in our struggle, our suffering, our need.

Wait a minute, you may be saying, how do we live in this world otherwise? We have to work, we have errands, children, stresses, worries, financial and relationship woes, grave uncertainties. Exactly! And being in relationship, in communion with God, means that we bring Christ God into the midst of all these things; we entrust ourselves, our families, our present, our future, our relationships, our uncertainties, to Him. We pray and give over to Him those things that concern us, stress us, pain us and make us afraid, as well as our joys, our triumphs.

Jesus Christ promises us that if we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, that all that we need will then be given to us. How hard it is for us to prioritize our spiritual needs over our physical wants. As we can see from today’s Gospel, as well as the Gospel as a whole, Christ God is interested in meeting all our needs—both spiritual and physical.

He cares for us when we suffer from illness and disease. He directs our steps and cares that we are able to provide for our families. He cares for us in our fears and anxieties. He cares for us that we may use our gifts and talents to serve others and grow in Him. He cares for us that we may become the men and women of God that He created us to be. He’s saddened by our struggles with sin and death—both physical and spiritual.

And because He loves us and cares for us, none of these concerns are indifferent to Him. He beckons us to entrust them all to Him, to call on Him for help, to avail ourselves of the godly council we’re given in Church by our priests and to be obedient to the Church that we may find healing for our souls, healing from all sin-induced pain we cause ourselves and others around us.

God gives miraculous physical healing to some, such as the two blind men in today’s Gospel, but it’s always the case that God desires our spiritual healing. He pours out His grace and healing on us constantly. All He demands is that we strive to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as is in keeping with being in relationship, in communion with God. We cooperate through our participation in the sacramental life—confession and reception of the Eucharist, through our obediences and the disciplines given to us by our spiritual fathers in keeping with the teachings of the Church, and, of course, through the ascetical life—fasting and prayer.

This is why God in His mercy gives us seasons of fasting, such as the Dormition Fast, which will lead us to the Feast of Mary the Theotokos’ falling asleep in the Lord. I encourage you as I encourage myself to prioritize the things of God over that which the world desires. Seek first His Kingdom. Strive to be a baptized Orthodox Christian 24/7 by living out your faith and bringing Christ God into the midst of all your joys and your trials. Avail yourself of the Fast, pray harder, make your confession, participate in the divine services, serve and use your gifts and talents to God’s glory, and beseech Christ God through your prayers to heal you of those sicknesses of soul that hold us back from the Kingdom, from the healing and abundant life with Him that He desires to give each one of us in His love and mercy. This is the message of recovery of sight to the blind that Christ came to preach. May you and I heed His call and be saved.