|09 - Two Dying Women, Nov 3, 2019|
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In this morning’s Gospel, we see two women, a young girl 12 years old—about the age a girl starts to become a woman—who is dying, and an older woman who has been losing her blood for 12 years. The life of the flesh is in the blood, the LORD says to Moses (e.g. Lev 17:11). The two women, then, are mirror images of each other. If she is dying, losing her life, the young girl is as good as losing her blood; and if the older woman has been losing blood for 12 years, she has been dying for 12 years. The young girl is dying right at that point when she is becoming a woman. She will never become a mother. Neither will the hemorrhaging woman, if she doesn’t stop losing her blood. And, if there is no mother to receive and nurture the seed, there is no child. Life is no more. The scene in this Gospel, then, is viscerally dreary. We are in the presence of death. The cold darkness of the tomb yawns before us and its nauseating dankness oozes into our soul and chills the gut. Dear faithful, this is the substance of the life of this world separated from God.
As it was last Sunday when the scene was the tombs of the Gerasenes, we see the LORD, again, this morning, among those “sitting in the region and shadow of death. Death is not in the background of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it’s in the foreground, because death, separation from God, is what the LORD came to heal so that we could become one with God.
This morning’s Gospel lesson sets before us the great comfort and hope of the Christian Faith. The LORD is present, here in the region and shadow of death. Christ is in our midst! Resurrection and Life are in our midst, and the life of Christ is the Light of men. It is the Holy Spirit of God, the Fire of God. As the Christ, the one in whom the Holy Spirit rests, the LORD Jesus is divine warmth that warms and heals and gives life. Like the sun that warms the earth with its soft, luminous rays when it rises in the morning or comes out from behind the clouds after a dark storm, so the LORD Jesus warms the soul with the Grace of His Holy Spirit when He draws near. As we begin to feel warm when we draw near the campfire, so our soul begins to feel the warmth of the LORD as she draws near to Him.
The LORD draws near from beyond the sea, from the region of the Gerasenes. There, He had emptied the tombs of the demons and cleansed the man possessed of many demons. He had in effect raised him to life. How fitting that Halloween this year is sandwiched between the two Gospels of last Sunday and this Sunday! It serves to bring us back from the world’s sickening fascination with the chilling darkness to the Light of Christ filled with grace and joy, that warms and softens the soul with healing and Life. This morning, then, the Savior has returned from the tombs of the Gerasenes. Can you see that this morning’s Gospel is a Paschal image of Christ’s Holy Resurrection by which He has risen from the dead, trampling down death and giving life to those in the tombs? It says that there was a crowd waiting for Him expectantly (v. 40). Is this not an image of the Church on Pascha Night and at every divine service? We are in that crowd this morning. We have come from far and near to gather round the altar, and we are waiting expectantly for the Great Entrance of the risen LORD Jesus, the King of Glory, accompanied mystically by hosts of angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim.
Are any of us in the crowd this morning a Jairus, concerned for a loved one who may be dying spiritually if not physically, or who may even have died? See how readily the King of Glory responds to Jairus’ request to come save his daughter! We can see how the LORD is drawn to the dead, for it is the dead He wants to save. He desires not the death of a sinner but that he turn and live. Jairus loses all hope when he hears that his daughter is dead. He is prepared to recede into the grief of a loving father, expecting that nothing can be done anymore. It is pointless to trouble the Teacher any further. But the LORD remains steadfast in His purpose. I believe He knows the prayer of Jairus’ heart. He is the Light that shines in the darkness, the Light of hope that shines even in the darkness of a heart that has lost all hope, the Light the darkness cannot contain. So, in the Church we do not lose heart, for in the Church, we are in the immediate presence of Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, and in the love of our heart united to the compassion of Christ and His Holy Mother, we continue to pray for our loved ones, even if they have died.
Would any of us in the crowd this morning identify with the hemorrhaging woman? Our hemorrhaging would be spiritual. The passions, such as envy, jealousy, anger, greed, and lust cause the spiritual blood, the life of our soul to ebb away, for they drain us of vigor and joy. The passions draw our soul to the ground and weigh us down in spiritual sloth, laziness, indifference. We haven’t the energy or the desire to rise to the light of life that shines in the Church.
So, it’s good that we are here this morning. For, here, we don’t just touch the hem of the LORD’s garment; we are enfolded in His garment. The prayers and hymns of the Church, the incense, the tinkling of the censer, the movements of the liturgical dance: these all are folds of the LORD’s garment, the manifestation in space and time of His deified humanity, which is our humanity, with which He clothed Himself as in a garment, and in which He destroyed death and which He has made fragrant and luminous with His own divine Life, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, in the joy of His Holy Resurrection.
That is, Christ is in the worship of the Church. The worship of the Church is somehow a Paschal embodiment of the risen Christ. It culminates in the LORD offering Himself to us as our food and drink in the consecrated gifts of Holy Eucharist. When we do the worship of the Church mindfully, prayerfully, uniting our heart to the altar in the sanctuary, we are touching the hem of His Garment, indeed the very mystery of His risen Body, and the healing power of His Holy Spirit is imparted to us. We who were dead in our sins and trespasses, weighed down by the trials and afflictions of this life, are renewed. We can feel His Grace raising us up as He raised up Jairus’ daughter. And, if we keep ourselves centered on Him, we can feel His Grace cleansing us and healing us in our soul as it did the hemorrhaging woman. What no worldly power can do the LORD does. He makes us alive and new in our inner man. Glory to Jesus Christ! Amen!