For the Sunday Gospel reading Luke 13:10-17.
Have you ever woken up on a Sunday morning and absolutely had no desire to go to the church? For whatever reason, you just didn't want to go.
I know, I have that too. And the funny thing is, it's always easy to find excuses – a headache, or a long night on Saturday, or a long work week, or a hard week coming up, or simply laziness, laziness to do anything on an off-day.
Over time this laziness grows into a habbit. A habbit not to miss the church on Sunday, but a habbit to argue with yourself. But as soon as I start arguing, I have lost the battle, the laziness won.
After beating all the obstacles, like today, we come to the church and hear the Gospel, which can shake us up sometimes or wake us up from hibernation. But today, the Gospel humbles us, almost humiliates.
On a Saturday Christ, as all other righteous Jews, was in the synagogue. Among the crowd was a sick woman. As you can imagine there are always sick people in the church, but this particular woman stood out because she was crippled – she was bent over. As St Luke tells us, she had this sickness because of the spirit of infirmity that was torturing her for 18 years.
Yet she was in church. And I am sure that in her condition, the road to church itself must have been a grind. Yet she came, and she was probably coming to the synagogue for all these 18 years, and Who do you think she met on that Saturday?
Christ! Can you believe her luck? Now imagine on that particular Saturday she decided to stay at home, to rest, after all, she had a very good excuse to do so. Forget about attending church, in her condition, it would be painful to do just about anything – move, stand still, lie down.
But she was in church, and Christ saw her, Christ Himself came up to her, and Christ Himself healed her.
How does one get the spirit of infirmity? … For any kind of spirit to enter into us, to have control over us, we have to let it in. The spirit of infirmity is clearly a bad spirit. Bad spirits enter into us when we turn away from God, and we turn away from God by sinning. Any sin puts us further away from God.
Like the crippled woman, we are broken, bent over, by the weight of this life – its cares, sorrows, pressures, temptations, infirmities, and so on. All of us, at some time, felt the crushing weight bending us down.
Unfortunately, we are much more sensitive to the physical and material disorder than we are to the spiritual disorder. We panick when we get physically sick. We become paranoid when we perceive that we are not making it out financially.
But when we get stuck in sin – when judging or hating becomes normal, when agitation and anger, especially at our family members, is an every day occurance, when viewing inapproapriate, explicit websites or movies does not shame us – when things like these happen, we barely worry about it. All it shows is that there is some serious spiritual decay.
Not every sin cripples us, at least not physically. But spiritually, yes, sin degrades our soul. How do we get out of this? How do we get rid of our own spirit of infirminty? Do we wait and hope for some kind of myraculous luck?
That the crippled woman met Christ in synagogue on that Saturday may or may not have been luck. We simply don't know. But hoping for luck in our case would, at best, be foolish. Christ, through His Holy Church, provides everything for us.
For example, confession is not simply some kind of a ritual, which absolves us of our sins. Confession is rightly called second baptism because it reconciles us with God, it reunites us with Him. Sin pulls us away from God, confession breaks satan's bonds over us.
After telling the woman that she is freed from her infirmity, Christ laid His hands upon her and she was made straight. He physically touched her. We have heard Him touching people when healing or resurrecting them quite a few times in the last couple of months. He was touched by hemorrhaging woman, who was healed. He took dead daughter of Jairus by the hand and she came back to life. He touched the casket of the dead son of the widow in Nain and he resurrected.
Do you get the theme? Our God is a physical God. He likes to use His divine hands, so to speak. And our faith is physical. We don't come to church to relax, we come here to pray. Prayer is an action. We pray standing or sitting or kneeling. We pray by singing or reading, we pray both with the brain and the heart.
And confession is a physical act. We stand before the Cross and the Gospel, and we speak aloud. And the priest puts his stole over our head to read the absolution prayer after confession.
And then there is Holy Communion, where we, again, physically partake of Body and Blood of Christ. It's not some spiritual magic, but physical miracle. Jesus touched people to heal and resurrect them, and He continues to touch us, even more, He enters into us to heal us.
The crippled woman was healed because she was where she was supposed to be, not because she was at the right time, at the right place. As right-believing people, as faithful Christians, we are also where we are supposed to be, and that is in the House of God.
Come in faith to God, and let Him touch us, let Him renew us, let Him heal us...in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise specified, the articles here are posted by Fr Aleksey, who has no sense of humor and is extremely straight forward.