• Text of Gospel Reading
  • In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! In today’s Gospel reading, we have two miracles. The woman with the flow of blood is healed, and the daughter of Jarius is raised from the dead. But in these two quite different and humanly speaking unrelated miracles, we have an identical message from Christ. “Your faith has made you well,” He tells the woman with the flow of blood. “Only believe, and she will be made well,” He tells the family of the departed girl. The Church today, and in fact St. Luke in the way he’s chosen to relay these two miracles in his Gospel, talk to us about faith. What does it mean to have faith in God? To believe in God? The woman with the flow of blood just reaches out to touch the hem of Christ’s garment. She doesn’t go to Him directly, like Jarius does, and ask for healing. She comes from the side, trying to remain hidden, but having the faith that just touching the Lord will bring her healing. And Christ calls her out of the crowd not because He doesn’t know who she is—He’s God, and He knows what’s just happened. And He doesn’t call her out of the crowd for her sake—she has what she’s come for. She doesn’t want anything else, she doesn’t want to be known or recognized, she had only come to see the Lord. Christ calls her out of the crowd so that her faith could serve as an example. So that people could see that He had come for all—not just for leaders like Jarius, whose house He was traveling to at that very moment. Christ came to bring healing for all. And what did He ask in return? Nothing. Only that we believe. When Christ comes to Jarius’ home, He handles the situation a little differently. Jarius’ daughter is no longer sick, and in need of healing. She’s died while Christ was on the way to see her. But this time He sends everyone away. The only people who get to witness the miracle are three of the disciples, and the father and mother of the young girl. And after the young maiden has been resurrected by Christ—a miracle far more impressive in human terms than simply healing an ill woman—Christ tells them to tell no one. He chose to reveal the faith of the woman who was healed to everyone around, but the faith of the family who’s daughter was raised from the dead, He chooses to keep silent. Now, we could talk about why this was historically (Christ didn’t want to be confused for merely a traveling miracle worker), but a far more important question is what message is being sent by Christ in the Gospel about the nature of faith in Him. What does it mean to have faith in God? We know from Christ’s own words that believing in God is not simply an intellectual exercise. Christ, in the Gospel this morning, uses the words “faith” and “believe” in the same way, so we’ll use them as synonyms this morning. We’re not going to talk about differences, Christ uses them to mean the same thing. We know that faith in God is not simply the admission that God exists. As St. James writes in his Epistle, “the demons believe in God and tremble.” To think that God is real, or to think that everything we read in the Bible and the Fathers is true, is not what Jesus means by faith in Him. So what is faith in God? What is the faith that Christ is referring to in the Gospel reading this morning, the faith of those who are healed? As we’ve already said, faith is more than simply believing that God is real, and that the Bible is true. But these things are necessary. The first step toward true faith is, in fact, the recognition of the reality of God, and our need of Christ as our Saviour. And even this first step is a gift from God. But then something must happen with this “head knowledge” in order for us to be transformed, and truly have faith in God. When we have faith in God, our knowledge leads us, by the grace of God, to the point of giving ourselves to God. Of learning to love God, and to do the things He commanded us to do in Christ. If we truly think that the words of the Scriptures are true, then our lives will be transformed by those words. And this transformation is the product of a growing faith. We’ll begin to strive to do the things Christ calls us to do, and we’ll begin to seek to know God and to give our lives over to Him more fully every day. This is what the people in the Gospel reading today were doing. They were relying on Christ to fulfill their every need. They were coming to Him, seeing in Him the source of all life and healing, and they were coming to bow down and worship Him. Their faith is in their actions. If they had just sat at home and thought, “I believe Christ could to this,” but then if they if didn’t make any move, nothing would have happened. And the same is true in our lives. Our faith in God is a willful decision to do the things of Christ. “Faith without works is dead,” St. James wrote. If we claim to have faith, but we don’t try to live according to Christ, if we don’t try to follow the commandments of God, then we don’t have faith. Faith’s not an emotion, and it’s not just a cognitive acceptance of fact. Faith in Christ is a life dedicated to doing the will of God. The woman with the flow of blood doesn’t just leave from the place of her healing and return to normal life. She goes home and tells people what has happened. In an early history of the Christian Church (by Eusebius), the historian records that the woman with the flow of blood went home and had a statue built as a memorial of her healing. A statue of her reaching out and touching the hem of Christ’s robe. She is remembered as an Apostle in the Church—she saw Christ, she touched Him, and the rest of her life was dedicated to sharing the Truth of Jesus Christ with those around her. In fact, several of the saints write that if we struggle to believe in God, then live like a Christian, and it won’t take long before you not only accept God as real, but you’ll even have the faith in Christ that so many people are searching for. When Christ performs miracles, He only asks for faith. In fact, He preaches that we’ll be saved by our faith in Him. But this saving and transforming faith is a life wholly given to Christ. In the Orthodox Church, there is no dichotomy between faith and works. If we have faith, then Christ tells us we will have works. Many of our Saints, including modern people like St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, make the point that the teachings of Christ are no different than the life of God. This is why True Faith lies in doing the will of God, following the commandments of Christ. The teachings of Christ are not simply dictates—they reveal the very life of God. Christ is God, and all He says flows from the very life of God. His teachings don’t just make good people; they form us in the image of God. Loving neighbors and enemies isn’t just a good thing to do—it’s what God does. If we truly believe what we profess we believe, then our every day and night will be given to the struggle to become more and more like our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The question we have to ask ourselves each and every day is—are we living faith in Christ, or do our lives profess another as lord? And if we find ourselves falling short in fulfilling the things of God, let us offer repentance, and take up our Cross to follow Him in faith and love. Glory to Jesus Christ!