|44 - CALL ON THE LORD WHILE HE IS NEAR, July 31, 2022|
Romans 15.1 – 7
Matthew 9.27 – 35
Let’s begin our reflection on this morning’s Gospel by recalling the biblical rubric we find articulated in the fourth century Syrian Christian anonymous work given the name by scholars of the Liber Graduum, or The Book of Steps. When we engage the visible Church, we engage the invisible Church. The rubric follows from the biblical truth that man is flesh and spirit so that when we engage the one we engage the other. And the Bible bears witness to the one Truth that defines the whole of creation: God the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us. In the womb of the Blessed Virgin, God the WORD became like us, flesh and spirit. And the Church is His Body incarnate, the same Body that was crucified and buried and risen from the dead and in which the LORD now sits at the Right Hand of the Father where He was before. This is why when we engage the visible Church we engage the invisible Church. We engage our own spirit in the realm of the Holy Spirit.
What, then, might be the invisible, spiritual reality that the physical blindness of these two blind men is the visible form of? Or of the man possessed by a dumb spirit so that he was mute? Or all the sicknesses and maladies of the people? And what would be the invisible, spiritual movement that the blind men following after Jesus is the visible form of; or of the mute being brought to Jesus, or of Jesus going into all the synagogues of all the cities and villages preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing all the people’s sicknesses?
This biblical rubric makes it easy for us to see that the physical blindness of the two men reflects the blindness of our inner man. In the Fall, the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened not to see God but their own nakedness. Their disobedience rendered them blind to God even as their eyes were opened to see their own nakedness or blindness. In our inner man, do we see God? Is it not because we see our nakedness and do not see God that we fall into doubt and unbelief and all that goes with that?
How about the physical muteness of the man possessed by a dumb spirit? What would be the invisible spirit that is the visible form of? Might it be the inability of our soul to express the anguish and deepest desires that move her in her depths? And what about all the sicknesses and maladies of the people? Might those be the visible face of all the brokenness of our soul beneath the façade of our civility, of our personal relationships, as well as the economic, political and social evils that impose on our daily lives a devastating impact?
The LORD says to the two blind men when they come to Him in the house, ‘Do you believe I can heal your blindness? Let it be done to you according to your faith!’ The blind men, the friends of the man possessed by a dumb spirit, all the sick among the people, obviously had heard that the LORD was come: ‘God is the LORD and has revealed Himself to us! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD!’ The blind men could not see Him, but when they heard He was passing through their village, they sought Him. They followed after Him not seeing Him and they cried out: ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ This was their faith and we see in this that faith is belief that engenders action. It is the action the LORD Himself reveals to us: ‘Seek and ye shall find! I love those who love Me. Those who seek Me will find Me!’
The blind men’s faith was an action, and we see that it was an action of prayer, of persistent prayer, of constant and ceaseless prayer. They followed after Him crying out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And in their faith, and by the prayer of their faith, they followed the LORD all the way into the house where He was.
This is the visible form of the invisible mystery of prayer. The holy fathers describe prayer as ‘descending with the mind into the heart to stand before the Face of the LORD.’ Can you see this invisible mystery of prayer in the two blind men coming to Jesus in the house? Can you see it in the friends of the man possessed by a dumb spirit bringing him to the LORD where He was? Can you see it in all the sick and suffering coming to Jesus in the synagogues of their cities and villages? And St Theophan the Recluse writes: When you establish yourself in the inner man by remembrance of God, then Christ the LORD will enter and dwell within you. The two things go together.’
Let us now review again that the sicknesses and maladies we see the LORD going throughout Galilee and Judea healing—blindness, muteness, lameness, paralysis, even death—are all given by the prophets as the symptoms of idolatry. And idolatry is adultery, loving a LORD who is not the true LORD, the Creator of us all, the True Heavenly Bridegroom. St John Chrysostom says that it is sin that has weakened us so that we are now able to become sick and die.
Blindness, muteness and all the other symptoms of idolatry, then, are the physical form of our soul’s adultery; they are the physical manifestation of our love for the world, which makes us enemies of God (Jas 4.4). Who of us has not experienced that when we grow cool in prayer, we grow cool in love for God and for the things of the Spirit? Our faith, our belief, wanes, our inner man darkens from unbelief like a dark vapor rising over us from our love for the world and our coolness toward God. Our faith wanes, our desire to see God wanes until finally we might become like the Pharisees. Even when we see others being healed by faith in the LORD, or when we hear of all the miracles of healing and deliverance that have happened countless times throughout the history of the Church (which goes all the way back to the beginning!) we dismiss it as nonsense.
For true faith is seeking the Face of the LORD in love. Notice that no demon has ever followed the LORD, let alone followed Him ‘into the house.’ The demons believe, says St James, and they tremble. They tremble because they do not love the LORD, they do not want to be healed, and so they do not follow Him except in the hope of destroying Him and all those in whose house He is found dwelling.
Therefore, when the LORD says to the blind men, ‘Do you believe that I can do this?’ He knows that they do because they have followed Him, they have sought Him, they have been crying out to Him ceaselessly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us!’ But the question, Do you believe, means, Do you love Me? Do you want Me to heal you? And again, He knows they do because they have followed Him all the way into the house where He was; they have sought Him diligently all the way into their heart. How great is the joy, how deep is the serenity, how wonderful the anticipation, when the believing soul who has sought the LORD diligently comes into the house and even though she cannot yet see the LORD, she can feel His presence; and in that presence, she knows that He hears her and will do as she asks, because to see, to speak, to hear, to know the LORD, to love the LORD—all this is what He wants for her! For He is Her Bridegroom, she is His bride! He became bone of her bones, flesh of her flesh; He desires that she would become bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh!
Let it be done to you according to your faith! Let it be done to you according to your love for Me. Seek the LORD while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near! (Isa 55.6) Call upon Him without ceasing. Let desire for healing, let love for the Bridegroom become the very substance of your soul. Even though we are blind and cannot see Him, He sees us, and He is watching us. We call upon Him unceasingly in prayer. He does not cease to do all things until He has brought us into the house, into our heart, that He may do for us as we desire, according to our faith, according to our love for Him! He opens our eyes that we may see the Glory of God; He opens our lips that we may declare His praise from the depths of our soul; He heals our infirmities and raises our life from the pit!
Blessed be the Name of the LORD henceforth and forever more! Amen! Most holy Theotokos, save us! Glory to Jesus Christ!