Sunday, November 6/19, 2017
24th Sunday After Pentecost
St. Paul the Confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople (305)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever.
O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
and be Thyself our King of Peace.
(O Come, O Come, Immanuel, trans. By John M. Neale)
Sad divisions, bleeding people, and loved ones crushed by the weight of sin and sudden death— These are all reasons that Immanuel came in the flesh and dwelt among us. And now as we near the quiet season of Advent when we await that coming, let us pause to consider two particular people in need: A woman bleeding for 12 years from an incurable illness and a ruler stripped of an only daughter, struck down in the prime of her life at 12 years old.
I remember when I reached the age of 12 years old, old enough to begin enjoying the privilege of adulthood yet not quite old enough to assume the burdens and responsibilities. Jairus’ daughter in this morning’s Gospel must have felt something of this coming of age until she unexpectedly contracted an illness from which she lay dying. This temple ruler begged the Lord to come to his house even after news reached him of her death, and the mourners mocked the Lord of Glory who called her passing a slight repose.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this untimely death, another girl raised to womanhood also suffered from a sickness unto death, a flow of blood that for 12 years no doctor could cure. Not only could no earthly physician heal her, but each one only made her malady worse. St. Ephraim the Syrian writes:
This affliction was presented to the many physicians, yet only one Physician encountered this affliction to heal it. Many physicians encountered and wearied her. Only one encountered her who was able to give her rest from the toil of many physicians… Since the [earthly] art of healing clothed with all our practical wisdom was reduced to silence, the divinity clothed with garments was proclaimed. He clothed himself in the body and came down to humanity, so that humanity might loot him… He took on a human body so that humanity might be able to attain divinity, and he revealed his divinity so that his humanity might not be trampled underfoot. (quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. III, p. 145)
The Great Physician of our souls and bodies meets this twelve year old girl and this bleeding woman with a cure of another kind: His own body and blood by which he puts to death the enmity that separates us all from God and from one another. As St. Paul writes in this morning’s epistle:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division. (Ephesians 2:14)
Which division? The ultimate division of death which the resurrected Lord conquered by His own death.
As we ponder this Great Physician, this Prince of Peace, what division needs healing/restoring in us? In our city? In our nation/world? The Church invites us throughout the coming 40 days of the Fast beginning shortly after Thanksgiving to repent of the noise and calamity caused by sin and to enter in to the rest of One who came clothed in our nakedness. That by receiving His life-giving body and blood, we too may begin to heal the sad divisions of our world and bid them cease by His almighty power. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.