Today we heard in the Gospel about two miracles – two miracles which on the surface might seem vastly different, but which are in essence quite similar. As our Lord was teaching, a locally important man, the ruler of the Synagogue, came to Him and asked Him to heal his daughter who was sick and near death. As Jesus was on the way to the house of this man, Jairus, He was surrounded by a great crowd of people who sought to hear his teaching and to be fed and healed by Him. All of a sudden Jesus stopped and asked what seemed to be a foolish question; He asked, “Who touched me?” The disciples pointed out that he was in the midst of a crowd and many people had no doubt touched Him, but Jesus continued to maintain that someone touched Him and that “power was gone out of (Him)” A woman in the crowd spoke up, saying that she had touched Him and then related what had happened. She had been hemorrhaging blood for twelve years. She had tried every possible remedy, even spending all of her money on physicians, to stop the bleeding but nothing had helped. Hearing of the miracles of our Lord, she came to see Him thinking, “if only I can touch the hem of His robe, it will be enough.” And in the midst of this huge crowd, constantly bumping and jostling Jesus, this one woman worked her way to Him and reaching out a hand she was just able to touch his robe. Indeed this was enough, for in the moment she touched Him, she was made whole. Jesus continued to the house of Jairus where his daughter lay no longer sick and dying, but she had died. Her illness had consumed her and had eaten up even the last breath of life in her. But Jesus, reached out and touched the young girl and by His power, healed her and restored her to life.
How are these two seemingly different healings alike? Blood is closely tied to life and as one loses blood, he loses a bit of his life. This is not only a physical truth, but also spiritual for blood is also closely associated with one’s soul and as one’s physical life is weakened through the loss of blood so also the life of one’s soul is weakened. Both of these miracles are concerned with the weakening and loss of life – the woman was slowly bleeding out her life and the young girl had had her life consumed by her illness. In both cases our Lord healed the condition that was leeching the life out of these two people and restored that life to them that they had lost. Of these two miracles – different on the outside but in essence quite similar – let us look for the present at the first, the healing of the woman, St Veronica, with an issue of blood (that is a hemorrhage).
“The woman suffered from bleeding and couldn’t be healed by any means. We are also suffering, if not physically, then spiritually from sin. One person suffers from anger and wrath. A second suffers from avarice and greed. A third suffers from a sensuality that pushes him into fornication and adultery. A fourth suffers from gluttony. A fifth suffers from conceit that makes him look for self-glory. A sixth suffer from hatred that destroys him when he sees the progress and happiness of others. The seventh suffers from laziness and doesn’t make any effort to do some good in this world.
“If each of us were to examine ourself closely, we would see that we suffer from sin. Sin is the most fearful of all sicknesses. Sin is a kind of hemorrhaging that continuously weakens a person. As the hemorrhaging of the woman in today’s Gospel reading was incurable, in the same way sin is incurable with human means. No one, but no one, can release a person from sin. Only one person is capable of curing man of the sickness of sin and saving him. He is our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Physician, the Savior of sinners.” (Bishop Augoustinos Kaniotes of Florina)
In the crowd surrounding Jesus there were many who were ill and suffering, for many came to Him to be healed. But though many touched Jesus in the crowd, only one was healed by that touch, only the woman who reached out in faith received heling from Him. What is it about her that was different from all the others? What is it about her that we can imitate so that we might also be healed from the ravages of our sin by our Lord? In the Gospel it is stated not only that this woman had suffered for many years but that she had “spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by any” indicating that she had tried every possible thing within her means and power to be healed, but nothing helped. By the time she came to Jesus she had realized that there was nothing that she could do, nothing within her own power or ability, that would bring healing. She came to Him having no resources, no strength, no hope in her own ability or power remaining. She came to Him with completely empty hands and cast herself fully into His hands. This is important for us because in our sins we all harbor this idea that we can overcome our “bad habits”, the little sins that bleed away our life, with this or that little trick. By learning just the right technique of psychology or even spirituality – by following a particular rule or routine – by fulfilling some requirement, we think that if we just give God enough, then He will reward us by giving us that little extra that we need to get over the hump and then we can take over again. But this is not what the woman who was healed did. She abandoned all hope in her own strength, in all the treatments and therapies that she had tried, in all the little tricks of psychology and medicine that she had acquired. Everything was set aside, and putting all her hope on God, she reached out to Him and she was healed.
This is what we need to do, especially when we are tempted by those sins which have a habitual hold upon us. As soon as we see the temptation, rather than waste time with tricks and techniques to somehow turn the sin aside by our own power, the very first thing, even when that sin is far, far away (but coming ever closer), immediately turn to prayer, confessing your own weakness and inability to resist the temptation. Cry out to God saying, “O Lord, if this temptation continues, then I will be unable to resist and I will sin – deliver me!”. From that moment on then continue to put yourself completely in God’s hands. One way that we can do this is by fervent use of the Jesus prayer – saying again and again. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” The prayer itself is nothing, the words are nothing, the repetition itself is nothing. But when this prayer for mercy comes from the depth of the heart, when it is the cry of our helplessness and the conscious reaching out to the only One Who is strong and able to protect us, to deliver us and to heal us, this is everything. The prayer (whether it be the Jesus prayer or some other prayer) must come from the heart – it must be the groaning and crying of the soul which does not have its own words, but which uses the words given to us by our Lord in the Gospel to express its cry of helplessness. And indeed our Lord hears this cry, He sees that we need Him and Him alone, He sees that we have abandoned all hope in our selves, in our own power, in our own cleverness and in our own resources and have placed all our hope on Him. And He will not leave us alone, but will come in that very moment to our aid and help and deliver us from the sin that seeks to attack us.
But it does not end here – for having admitted our own powerlessness now we must avoid trying to go back to depending on ourselves again. We must continue crying out to God every moment for His mercy, for it is only He who maintains us, who protects us, who delivers us, who guides us day by day, even moment by moment. Having cast our whole self upon Him, let us not try and snatch it out of His hands again, but rather let us stay in His loving care and kindness – relying only on Him and not on ourselves. For this reason that Apostle reminds us to “pray without ceasing” constantly calling out to God and placing ourselves in His hands.
Let us then follow the example of St Veronica who was healed of her hemorrhage and turn away from self reliance and reach out to the only One who can deliver us from the sin which infects us and which drains our life from us. Let us call out to our Lord Jesus Christ, putting all our hope on Him, asking every moment of our lives from this time forth saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”