Thy faith hath made thee whole…(St. Matthew ix. 22)
The green season of Trinity Tide emphasizes spiritual growth and fertility by drawing our attention to the miracles of Jesus. Our English word miracle is a translation from the Greek word dunamis, meaning mighty work or power. Archbishop Trench says that a miracle is an outcoming of the mighty power of God, which is inherent in Christ himself, that great power of God. (Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord) A miracle is a manifestation of God’s power imparted by Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, into human hearts by the Holy Ghost. Most of God’s miracles found in Scripture can be traced to Christ in the days of His Incarnation. They are disclosures and revelations of God’s strength which are effected directly or indirectly through Christ himself. John Donne tells us that there is in every miracle a silent chiding of the world and a tacit reprehension of them that require, or who need, miracles.(Trench, p. 16)
Miracles are offered from God to man to remind us of that power, which we are habitually in danger of forgetting. This is the power that must, at times, startle and shake us out of an otherwise somnolent and sleepy spiritual sloth. Through miracles, God reveals Himself to the Jews on Mount Horeb. Through miracles, God reveals Himself, in Jesus Christ, to their descendants. Through miracles, we find that curative dynamism of Divine Power that visits men in Jesus Christ, heals them, and offers to carry them home to God. From what does man need healing? Sin. Every man needs to be healed of what stands between him and his Maker. The instance of healing is not what is important. God lends His power to man to elicit a deeper consciousness of his absolute dependence upon His Maker for his redemption and salvation. The miracle might cure a man of blindness. The greater miracle is his spiritual realization that God’s Wisdom, Power, and Love alone can ensure his transition to the Kingdom.
In today’s Gospel lesson, we read of two miracles that should encourage us to seek out the power of God in Jesus Christ for our own lives. We read of one miracle that is sought out vicariously through entreaty and another that is sought out directly through contact with Jesus. There is desire for healing a relative and passionate determination for healing of the self. In today’s Gospel the order is abruptly reversed.
This morning we learn that before a man can pray aright for the healing of others, he must be healed himself. Thus, the power of God is obtained individually so that the sanctified soul might know how and when to pray for others. This, of course, runs clean contrary to what most people do. Most people are consumed with praying for other people’s sin and sickness. It may be well-intentioned, but most men are more co-dependently consumed with other people’s sins than their own.
So, to today’s lesson. We read that there is the ruler who comes to Jesus, honors him, and begs Him to come down to heal his daughter who has just died. My daughter is even now dead, but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (St. Matthew ix.18) Jesus takes His disciples to follow the gentleman home. Something then interrupts their journey so that Jesus can reveal to the ruler what should have preceded his intercession for his daughter. Remember, the order of the healings is all important. Out of the blue and in the press, someone touches Him. Behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. (St. Matthew ix. 20,21) Someone has interrupted Jesus’ response to a nobleman’s petition.
The woman with an issue of blood twelve years impedes the journey into healing, for the benefit of our enlightenment and instruction. This woman is an example to us of that personal diligence and determination that must always precede our prayers and supplications for others. She reveals who and what the ruler should have been before he begged Jesus to heal his daughter. She represents that spiritual character and disposition that must characterize the life of the soul that must be healed before it can know how, when, and in what manner to pray for others.
What does this mean? How can we possibly approach God with cares and concerns about others before we are made right with Him ourselves? No doubt, there is nothing wrong with wanting the healing of others and our loved ones. The example of the ruler provides us with a degree of natural good will; here we find a man honored and esteemed in the earthly city who is heartbroken over his daughter’s sickness and death. Yet we must see the interruption of the woman with the issue of blood as a call to our own need for getting right with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The woman in this morning’s Gospel provides us with a witness to that faith that seeks out and finds, that perseveres and persists until it has secured the power of God for its own healing. She needs Christ’s healing. She has suffered physically for twelve years with uninterrupted menstruation. Yet, she is humbler than the earthly ruler. Her ongoing and unhealed sickness has ostracized her from society, she is embarrassed, and she seeks a cure. St. John Chrysostom reminds us that
she was ashamed on account of her affliction, accounting herself to be unclean. For if the menstruous woman was judged not to be clean, much more would she have the same thought, who was afflicted with such a disease; since in fact that complaint was under the law accounted a great uncleanness. (Hom. Xxxi)
She knew that she could not help herself, and St. Luke reminds us that she had suffered many things of many physicians, and spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. (St. Luke viii. 43) Her faith convinces her that the mere touch of Jesus’ garment will heal her. With faith and courage, she will push through the crowd to touch Jesus. She cannot speak out of shame, but she can touch. Because of who Jesus is, the very garments that He wears must be conduits to the newness of life that will issue from Him to her.
Then, Jesus, perceiving that virtue has gone out of Him (St. Luke viii. 46), says to her, daughter be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. (St. Matthew ix. 22) Jesus has been moved by the faith that has sought Him out and found Him in a unique way. Silently she prays, God be merciful to me a sinner and hopes to return healed to her hidden obscurity.
The woman is a sign of our need to judge ourselves, feel our spiritual sickness, and seek a cure. She reveals a faith that Christ knows what is best for her without her asking. To reach out to God in Jesus Christ, to touch the hem of His heavenly garment, and to desire His power with a humble passion silently are of highest value to Christ, our all-merciful Lord! There can be no doubt that Jesus was thronged by a multitude of sick and diseased people. But one woman touches Him with humble faith. The commentators remind us that she might have touched His garment, been healed, and gone away with a healing and restoration that was as concealed and hidden as her original disease. For, she thought within herself, her own healing paled in significance to that of the ruler’s daughter. She was no aristocrat! But Jesus would have none of it. The unique, humble faith of this woman must be brought out into the clear light of day so that its earnest passion might inspire others to imitation. This is the faith that must travel out of fear and trembling into the clear light of Christ’s healing embrace. Archbishop Trench remarks:
She hoped to remain in concealment out of a shame, which, however natural, was untimely in this the crisis of her spiritual life; but this hope of hers is graciously defeated. Her heavenly Healer draws her from the concealment she would have chosen; but even here, so far as possible, He spares her, for not before, but after she is healed, does He require the open confession from her lips. She might have found it perhaps altogether too hard had He demanded this of her before; but, waiting till the cure is accomplished, He helps her through the narrow way. Altogether spare her this painful passage He could not, for it pertained to her birth into the new life. (Trench, Ibid, 150)
Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. (Idem) Her faith has conquered Jesus’ heart, procured His virtue, and Jesus will hold her as an example to us all.
Again, John Donne tells us that in every miracle there is a silent chiding of the world. (Idem) The woman with the issue of blood chides or reproaches us all. Do we have her deep humility and faith to persistently pursue Christ’s power to heal? Christ brings out the faith of the woman with the issue of blood to make public what must shame us.
Many throng Christ; His in name; near to Him; in actual contact with the sacraments and ordinances of His Church; yet not touching Him, because not drawing nigh in faith, not looking for, and therefore not obtaining, life and healing from Him, and through these. (Trench, Ibid, 149)
Will we pursue Christ persistently in the crowded ways of modern life with humble and faithful hearts that seek His cure for our sins? The woman with the issue of blood committed no sin but is ashamed and alienated. Christ intends for us to imitate her humility, faith, and persistence. We must be humbled. Our faith must feel deeply our need for His healing power. We must never think that Christ’s Redemption is for other people. We must never take Christ for granted. We must stop thinking that we can touch the hem of Christ’s garment in the Sacraments without believing in the power that they convey! The Son of God paid for our Salvation with His Blood. Do we receive His Body and Blood as what alone can cure our sin sick souls? Christ is God’s Word. If we touch the hem of His Garment, we must intend to receive His healing power.
Jesus displays the woman’s faith to all for our imitation. (St. J. Chryst.) We wonder why we don’t heal. Our faith is too weak. Our faith is a private affair. Jesus says, thy faith has made thee whole (Idem). In our lives, this miracle should reveal to the world an outcoming of the mighty power of God, which is inherent in Christ himself, that great power of God. (Idem)
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: