St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

Jairus and the Woman

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, November 6, 2011

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!

The life of Christ is entirely about two things, service and love. He came not to be served, but to serve. He came to give love unconditionally to all. Even when people did not respond in kind, and he knew they would not, he still gave. As one Gospel writer wrote, “He went about doing good.”

In his miracles we see this truth manifested most dramatically. We human beings love spectacle. We love proofs, evidence, and drama. But miracles, as we know, are not enough to change the mind for long and remove all doubt. Other interior forces intervene. At the Ascension, as he rose before the eyes of a crowd of people, there were some who still did not believe. When a miracle has happened, a moment later it has passed into memory, and, as memory fades, the impact lessens and lessens until the memory has little power left at all.

The most compelling message in the Gospels is not what Jesus did, but Who he is. Being Who he is, we could hardly expect less of him than miracles. But it is his revelation of God that moves me most. God, the Compassionate, the Loving Healer, the transformer of lives, the caring Father, the One who comes into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it.

For me the most important thing is to talk about what this means for our everyday lives. We can talk about theology, or read books about it, until our faces turn blue. We can talk about the Incarnation and the Virgin Mary, and that epitome of theology, the Holy Trinity, but if we cannot connect all that to our lives in a practical way, it doesn't mean much at all.

But I believe and know that it can. Let's talk about the Woman with the Issue of Blood. She suffered from this bleeding condition for many years. It made her life miserable. No one could help her. Until she turned to God and reached out her hand. It affected her social life, her religious life, her family life. Her condition made her unfit to be alive according to Jewish law. She was unclean.

We also suffer from conditions that affect our lives. Just like her, they control us. These things are not physical, although they can manifest in physical ways. And yet, they affect our lives just as did hers. They color our understanding of God and of one another. What is worse, we are not even aware of them because we cannot see them. And so we identify with them and believe there is nothing that can be done about them. ”This is just who I am,” we say as we throw in the towel. Just like the Woman with the issue of blood. That is until she took one last and very risky chance and set out to touch the hymn of the Lord's garment in a crowd that might well have stoned her had they known she was there.

We can do the same and find the same healing, but it is not usually instantaneous because the healing of her disease was easy compared to ours. It takes faith in God and a great deal of effort on our part just like St. Paul wrote – we are coworkers with God in our own salvation, he says, and calls us to work out our own salvation with “fear and trembling.” A very good description of what the Path looks like.

The healing needed most is of the heart and the mind, deeply wounded by the circumstances of life, and the therapy begins with our thoughts. Allow me to read to you from the writings of the renowned Serbian Elder, Thaddeus of Vitovnica as a way to introduce us to the kind of effort required. They were written after much spiritual and physical struggle through some of the worst years in Serbian history, from WW II to the terrible wars of the 20th century. His humble voice is that of an experienced Orthodox Christian who knew from his own life what was necessary to find the Lord's peace in this troubled world.

“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility. Everything, both good and bad, comes from our thoughts. Even today we can see that all of creation, everything that exists on earth and in the cosmos, is nothing but Divine thought made material in time and space. Mankind was given a great gift, but we hardly understand that. God's energy and life is in us, but we do not realize it. Neither do we understand that we greatly influence others with our thoughts. We can be very good or very evil, depending on the kind of thoughts and desires we breed. If our thoughts are kind, peaceful, and quiet, turned only toward good, then we also influence ourselves and radiate peace all around us – in our family, in the whole country, everywhere. This is true not only here on earth, but in the cosmos as well. When we labor in the fields of the Lord, we create harmony. Divine harmony, peace, and quiet spread everywhere. However, when we breed negative thoughts,  that is a great evil. When there is evil in us we radiate it among our family members and wherever we go...Destructive thoughts destroy the stillness within, and then we have no peace. Our starting point is always wrong. Instead of beginning with ourselves, we want to change others first and then ourselves last. If everyone were to begin with themselves , then there would be peace all around! St. John Chrysostom says that no one can harm the man who does not injure himself – not even the devil. You see, we are the sole architects of our future. By thoughts man often disturbs the order of nature. That is how the first people were destroyed in a flood because of their evil thoughts and intentions. This true even today; our thoughts are evil and therefore we do not bear good fruit. We must change. Each individual must change...”

Knowing this is only the beginning. We need to explore what to do once we see this essential truth. How do we cooperate with God in order to bring about the change necessary in us to radiate peace as did the good Elder, first to ourselves, then to our neighbors, and finally to all of creation? We too, must turn to the Lord and reach out to touch the hymn of his garment. We will explore how to do just that in the Sundays to come.