SERMON ON HEALERS AND HEALING
November 3, 2019
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Today, dear ones, we celebrate healing. In the Gospel of St. Luke this morning we heard about the raising of Jairus’ daughter from sickness and death, and about the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage, the “issue of blood.” In the reading from St. Matthew we heard how Jesus sent out his disciples to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, (and) cast out demons.” On the church calendar today, and on this holy icon before us, we commemorate the “Synaxis of the Holy Unmercenaries.” And what does that mean? “Synaxis” means “gathering together” and “unmercenaries” are those Christian physicians who treated people without taking payment. So it means that today we celebrate Christ’s miracles of healing in the Gospels as well as all those doctor-saints who worked “pro bono” all the time for the sake of the love of Christ.
Healing is an interesting thing. Crowds would throng around Jesus all of the time because they had heard of his miraculous healing power. We heard about this in the Gospel this morning too. But physical healing was NOT what Jesus was primarily concerned with. He was far more interested in spiritual healing. That’s why He spent much more time speaking to people rather than healing them. Spiritual healing will result in eternal life and a new resurrection body in the Kingdom. Physical healing is only temporary. Even Lazarus the Resurrected-One died again and was buried. No, Jesus used physical healing in this world in order to draw people toward the eternal healing of the Gospel message, His message. The Lord Himself said to the Jews: "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe" (John 4:48). And St. Paul wrote that: “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). So Jesus gave them signs, but not every sick person in Israel was healed. In fact, where no faith was shown, He didn’t heal anybody, like in His hometown of Nazareth. In St Matthew’s Gospel we read: “Jesus said to (the Nazarenes), “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13: 57-58).
So, OK, we understand that physical healing is not foremost in the Gospel message. But physical health and physical healing are not antithetical to the Gospel message either. If Jesus thought physical healing was bad or inappropriate, He wouldn’t have healed as many people as He did. Also, He did not oppose or condemn the work of physicians at any time. While Jesus was never seen to refer anyone to a medical doctor (why would He?) He does refer to Himself as both a physical AND spiritual healer. Where? Mark 2:17 & Luke 4:23. I’m not going to recite them, but take my word for it, or look them up. The Lord DOES care about our physical as well as spiritual well-being, and that’s obvious. One early church father, Clement of Alexandria writing about Christ said: “The good Instructor, the Wisdom, the Word of the Father, who made man, cares for the whole nature of His creature; the all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.”
So what does it all mean? Well, it means for a Christian, attention to the healing of the soul is our first priority, but, healing of the body should not be neglected. I knew a young man, years ago, who was so “pious” that he refused to go to the dentist when he was suffering from an absolutely horrible toothache. “I believe that God will heal it,” he said, “if I only have enough faith!” “Go to the dentist!” we all said, but no...he was going to wait for God’s miracle. And wait he did, in agony, until every last tooth in his head had to be pulled due to fear of brain infection. Brothers and sisters, that’s not “piety,” that’s stupidity. Father Schmemann used to say to us that God is not some kind of cosmic coke machine where you deposit your coin of prayer and your desired product, your desired result, comes falling down to you. It’s preposterous! God gave us a brain, He gave us reason. That’s why the church is called the rational flock, the reason-endowed sheep. In the trebnik, the priest’s service book, there is a prayer in which we ask God to bless the means employed to effect the cure of a sick person. That means the doctors, nurses, surgeons, medications etc. God is not opposed to medicine. Not at all, but He loves to work with doctors, especially those who acknowledge Him. I am going to end with a section from the Bible you’ve probably never read or heard before. It Sirach, chapter 38, verses 1 through 15, and it goes like this:
“Honour the doctor with the honour due to him, and for the services he provides to you; God has established him in his profession. From God the doctor has the wisdom to heal, and from the king he receives accolades. Knowledge makes the doctor distinguished, and gives him access to those in authority. God makes the earth yield healing herbs which the prudent should not neglect; Was not the water sweetened by wood, so that all might learn his power? He endows people with knowledge, to glory in his mighty works, through which the doctor eases pain, and the druggist prepares his medicines. Thus God’s work continues without cease in its efficacy on the surface of the earth. My son, when you are ill, do not delay, but pray to God, for it is he who heals. Flee wickedness and purify your hands; cleanse your heart of every sin. Offer your sweet-smelling oblation and memorial, a generous offering according to your means. Then give the doctor his place lest he leave; you need him too, for there are times when recovery is in his hands. He too prays to God that his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure. Whoever is a sinner before his Maker
will be defiant toward the doctor also.” Amen.