7th Sunday after Pentecost – Orthodox Homily on the Healing of the Two Blind Men

We’re witnesses thru today’s Gospel to the healing of two blind men. And through this life-changing encounter in which Christ’s power is in full evidence, we’re advanced in our understanding of healing and salvation.

Responding to their plea for mercy, the God of mercy, the only true Lover of mankind, Jesus Christ, receives the two blind men into His presence and He heals them. But Jesus doesn’t perform this great miracle randomly. Rather, like the healing of the paralytic last week, we’re taught a lesson in faith and healing that is also applicable to our own need for Christ’s healing.

To paraphrase St. John Chrysostom, Christ doesn’t run after those in need of healing everywhere, lest anyone think He’s healing out of vainglory. No, there’s more at work here: Christ’s healing presupposes a participation, a cooperation, from those who are healed. Just as our relationship and communion with Him necessitates a participation on our part, by definition: a return of love, an act of repentance and an abandonment of self-will, so too our healing bespeaks a reciprocal relationship. In fact, in most of the healings we see in the Gospels, those in need of healing personally seek out that healing from Christ. In other words, they desire their healing. They desire their healing enough to seek Christ out, to entrust themselves to Him, to acknowledge their need for Him. They desire healing enough to step forward in faith, recognizing that God alone is worthy of their trust.

The two blind men seek out Jesus; they follow Him, crying out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” These two men know the Source of mercy; they know that God alone can give such a mercy, such a miraculous healing.

To test their faith further, Jesus asks them even after such a demonstration of faith, “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.”

Do you see the involvement of their souls 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 great faith from them; it demanded the ‘eyes’ of faith and the strength of soul.

Even still, Jesus does not heal everyone today; not everyone receives physical healing. It remains a mystery. To some, like St. Paul, who petitioned God to remove the “thorn in his flesh,” God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12). In other words, there was something about that ‘thorn’ that St. Paul ‘needed’ if he was to trust in God for his strength, to be humble before Him, to serve God to the amazing extent he did, converting whole nations to the truth of God and His salvation.

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 volition, our participation.

When it comes to healing our eternal souls, we know that God desires this above all: He calls all to salvation from sin-sickness, spiritual sickness. 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, that is, salvation in Christ.

And God gives us a sure and prescribed path toward our healing, our growth, and salvation through His Church. He teaches us how to pray through the Church, He feeds us with the Sacrament through the Church, He teaches us the disciplines of the ascetic life: fasting and prayer through the Church, and He gives us Confession through the Church as a means to be purified, so that we may continue to learn and entrust more of ourselves to Him who is the Great Physician. And through these ‘tools’ we progress in the knowledge and love of God.

This progress in the knowledge and love of God is meant to be ever active, never ‘static,’ never status quo. To be deified, we cannot be ‘couch potato’ or ‘arm chair’ Christians. It’s easy to fall into a rut, preferring our own opinions and ways to those of the Church, listening to the culture instead of Christ, taking Orthodoxy on our terms, but that isn’t Christianity and won’t bring us the healing we need.

One of the foremost tools that Christ gives us through His Church to find healing from our spiritual sickness is the Sacrament of Repentance: Confession, and subsequent reception of the Eucharist. For this reason, Holy Church encourages us towards frequent confession so that we can also enjoy the benefits of frequent reception of the Eucharist, which is also called the “Medicine of Immortality” because it unites us with Christ Himself and heals our souls, but only if we receive in faith, through preparation and purification, which is itself part of that Medicine. Confession and Reception, the Church teaches us, go hand in hand.

The prayers for reception of the Eucharist presuppose confession and its purification as a preparation for worthily receiving Christ’s precious and holy Body and Blood. And so through all of this, we see that our healing in soul demands something of our material bodies, our time, our energy, our worship, our prayers, our heart-felt repentance and turning to Christ God just as the blind men did and cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us.”

By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Sacrament of Confession, we learn the root causes of the sins that cause us to stumble, that cause us and others sadness, our pride and false dependence on self; we grow in confidence in our identity and self-worth in Christ, we begin to peel away the ‘onion layers’ of our souls to the heart of our struggles, the passions and self-will that holds us back. Confession is truly a gift from God. But this kind of soul-searching demands humility and willingness on our part for healing from God, a willingness on our part is necessary. We have to spend time in prayer, self-examination, and worship, to make the most of the Sacrament and the healing and growth that God would offer us through it.

Our ongoing willingness to be healed, to progress in our healing, is an integral part of our salvation. We’re saved through our belief (faith) that manifests itself thru our actions and deeds, the living out of that faith. Faith and works go hand in hand, St. James teaches us. We cannot afford to lay aside our struggle with sin and our obedience to what Christ teaches us through His Church. Christ asks the blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” We’ve been shown the way if we would make use of it.

My prayer for each one here is that we would all continue to make use of the tools of our salvation, which Christ offers us through His Church for our growth, our healing, our salvation. As we grow, individually and corporately in our reflection of Christ and the Kingdom, others will find their healing and salvation in Christ as well through our example. May we each cultivate the attitude of soul and the cooperation of body to follow Christ with all that we have, all that we are, crying out to Him as did the blind men, “Lord, have mercy on us,” knowing that He is the Lord who loves us and indeed has mercy on our souls.

Fr. Robert Miclean
Holy Archangels Orthodox Church
Sunday, 11 August 2013
The Healing of the Two Blind Men

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