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Sermon for the Tenth Sunday of Luke
Archimandrite Kyril Jenner
It is sometimes helpful in trying to understand the full implications of a passage from the Gospels if we look at the context in which it is placed. Today’s reading is the third section in Chapter 13 of Saint Luke’s Gospel and can be seen to be linked with the first section.
The first section concerns a discussion about two apparently recent events, or at least events that were well known to those who spoke with our Lord. The first was the killing of a number of men described as “Galileans”. These appear to have been protesting against either Roman rule in general or Pontius Pilate’s very harsh implementation of that rule. These men were apparently massacred on the Temple Mount. The second event was the death of eighteen men in the collapse of the Tower of Siloam. (Luke 13:1-5)
For both of these events the discussion seems to have focussed on whether the sins of those involved had led to their death as a punishment by God. Our Lord’s response is that there is in general no direct link between individual sin and individual suffering. We are all sinners and we all need to repent. Without repentance we will perish, just as the victims perished in the two events.
Saint Luke makes links between different episodes through key words, such as specific numbers. In the account we read a few weeks ago of the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the healing of the woman with the flow of blood the two interlinked stories are related by involving “twelve years”. In today’s reading, where the woman had been crippled for eighteen years there appears to be a verbal link back to the eighteen men who died at the Tower of Siloam.
They did not die because they were greater sinners than those who survived. Similarly the woman is not crippled because she is a greater sinner than those able bodied people around her. She was crippled, she was suffering, and she deserved compassion as much as any one else around. This is the message our Lord gives by mocking the very narrow interpretation of the Law of the Sabbath that was quoted by the ruler of the synagogue. Yes, we can avoid doing unnecessary work. But doing good works is never unnecessary. We care for animals that cannot care for themselves. Why should we not also care for our fellow humans beings who are in need of similar care?
Our Lord heals the crippled woman by touching her. The woman with the flow of blood was healed through touch. We need direct contact with God to receive healing, to be made whole. Saint Theophylact reminds us that we are all spiritually crippled through our sin. “The soul is bent over in infirmity whenever it inclines to earthly thoughts alone. … Is not that person indeed bent over who is attached to the earth, and who always sins in disregard of the commandments, and who does not look for the age to come? But the Lord heals such a soul on the sabbath in the assembly … For when someone assembles together within themself thoughts of confession … and keeps the sabbath, that is, they rest from evil, then Jesus heals them, not only by word … but also by deed. For when he has placed his hands on us, he requires that we accept the energy from his divine hands to do the works of virtue in collaboration with him. We must not be satisfied to receive only that healing which comes by word and by instruction.” (Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St Luke, Chapter 13)
Saint Theophylact seems to be referring hear to the physical aspects associated with our spiritual healing. These come through the placing of the priest’s stole over the head in confession, through the anointing with oil in the service of anointing, and through physically receiving Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. All of these are the means provided for us to receive healing of soul and body.
Let us pray that we may repent of our sins, and that through God’s loving mercy and our Lord’s healing touch we may receive forgiveness of sins and be restored to fullness of life with God as members of his heavenly kingdom.