Gospel Reading

Luke 8:49-56

While he was still speaking, a man from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50 But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well.” 51 And when he came to the house, he permitted no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52 And all were weeping and bewailing her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up at once; and he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed; but he charged them to tell no one what had happened. (Revised Standard Version)

See also: Matthew 9:23-26; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

Reflection Points

Based on the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Ninth Sunday after the Holy Cross), the following are suggested themes for sermon topics:

Purity and Pollution

The Jewish Law contained many purity laws which were vital to maintain public health. We still live in a polluted world, run down and in some places even toxic. In our own society, washing our hands, dishes, laundry, sanitizing medical supplies, and environmental laws are examples of such regulations in order to protect ourselves, others, and the environment from illness and pollution. Luke tells us in Sunday’s Gospel reading that Jesus touched the girl’s corpse (v. 54), something strictly prohibited by the Law. We read in Numbers 19:11, “He who touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days.” Why would Jesus knowingly break such a law? What does this say about him? What does it say about what he came to do? And what does it mean in this particular story?

When Jesus chose to touch the corpse of Jairus’ daughter, even when he touches us with his healing hand, Jesus not only shares the pollution of sickness and death, his love and compassion transforms that pollution and corruption (i.e. the disease of sin), into life. Rather than Jesus being polluted and considered unclean as the law makes clear, his healing power gives salvation and purifies the pollution of sin that affects our minds and hearts. And so, rather than him breaking a rule, what we see in this story is an example of Jesus not being subject to the Law but coming to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17).

More than once in the Badarak, Jesus is referred to as our «քաւութիւն» (kavootyoon), the source of healing any damage or pollution caused by sin. One such instance is when the priest turns to face the people and elevates the chalice saying,

Սա է կեանք, յոյս, յարութիւն, քաւութիւն եւ թողութիւն մեղաց։

Sa eh gyank, hooys, harootyoon, kavootyoon yev toghootyoon meghats.

This is life, hope of resurrection, expiation and remission of sins.

The word «քաւութիւն» is usually translated as “expiation” or “propitiation,” which isn’t always clear and can be problematic. It is perhaps better understood as redemption or purification, the cleansing or erasure of sin. In other words, քաւութիւն is what prevents someone from total annihilation or non-existence by erasing the corruption or pollution of sin.

When we are sincere in our repentance, when we ask God to forgive us for those things which we cannot even numerate, what happens? Something in our minds alone, a figment of our imagination? No. God promises to cure the pollution, not only in us, not only the pollution and toxicity we contribute to others, but the corruption of the entire created order. St. Paul writes to the Church in Rome,

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:19-24)

What pollutes us? What pollutes our community? Do we ever take time to fast as individuals or as a community in order to recalibrate and cleanse what doesn’t belong? Repentance is a prayer and sacrament away. Perhaps consider private confession with a priest. The point is that Jesus, our kavootyoon, wants to heal us, but he wants us to draw close to him so that he can fill our fears, our insecurities, all of the hurt that we have absorbed and all of the hurt we have caused others with his grace and love in order to purify us, to mature us, to make us more like him, to unite and be a part of him. To be pure is to see God just as the Saints in our Church, and sainthood, purity in heart, is the life to which all of us are called.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

When Jesus shares himself with us, his glory, his grace, his healing Body and Blood, we are in a real and mysterious way redeemed, made pure and clean. This is good news! This is the Gospel! Each one of us is the daughter of Jairus!

Further consider the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. The miracles of Jesus always point to a larger context. They tell of whom Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. The resurrection of Jairus’ daughter is just one example of foreshadowing Jesus on his way to confront and defeat death (the ultimate corruption and result of sin) by way of his own resurrection. This story also foreshadows the entirety of our salvation in Jesus Christ, specifically through Baptism and Badarak. After being raised from the dead, the Lord instructs her family to give her something to eat. Likewise, when we are baptized, we are freed from sin, from eternal death and raised to life in Christ.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. (Romans 6:3, 7-8)

Moreover, upon our resurrection at Baptism, we are given something to eat. The priest brings the baptized believer to the altar of the Church and offers the newly baptized his/her first sacred meal, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. And every week from that day we share in Christ as our kavootyoon:

Arek, gerek, ays eh marmeen eem vor vasun tser yev pazmats pashkhee, ee kavootyoon yev ee toghootyoon meghats.

Take, eat; this is my body, which is distributed for you and for many, for the purification and remission of sins.

Arpek ee sumaneh amenekyan, ays eh aryoon eem noro ookhdee, vor haghakus tser yev pazmats heghanee, ee kavootyoon yev ee toghootyoon meghats.

Drink this all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the purification and remission of sins.

Fear and Faith

Jesus says, “Do not fear; only believe.” Easier said than done, right? It almost sounds offensive or insensitive, but since we know the end of the story, we know Jesus is saying something profound.

What is interesting is that doubt is typically understood as the opposite of faith, so what is the relationship between faith and fear? Look at this way: in the dark, we become unaware of our surroundings and as a result, without light we become afraid. At Baptism, the light of faith is turned on and we can see, we are “enlightened.” (The reason we call St. Gregory the Enlightener is because he baptized people into the Christian faith). In a way, fear creates imaginary belief. Without sight we begin to imagine what may or may not be in front of us. After watching a scary movie, why is it that we begin to believe certain things may lurking about when in reality it is impossible? There are no monsters under the bed, but fear convinces us there are.

Many times, Jesus asks his disciples why they fear when they should have faith. This story is one example. Why? Because faith, belief about what is really true (ex. what is true about God’s victory over death) displaces fear, or false belief about things which have no bearing on reality. Jesus is telling Jairus there is nothing to fear. In other words, “If you know me, Jairus, if you know what I have come to do, then you will know by faith that death and the disease of sin has no power in my Kingdom.” Each one of us is Jairus in this story, and as he calls Jairus, Jesus calls each one of us to be children of light, children of faith.

From the epistle reading for this Sunday, we hear St. Paul caution the Church – the “Light in the Lord” who were once in darkness, but are now children of light:

Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Instead of fearful, we are called to be wise. Whatever trial we face, individually or as a community, Jesus is present in our suffering alongside our fear in these days of evil. His healing love and power move us from debilitating fear to liberating faith. 

Are we walking by faith, relying on Jesus Christ to be our Light? Or are we walking by our own limited, finite, temporal sight led by our passions and whatever distraction of the moment seems to satisfy? Do we live in fear of violence, terrorism, sickness, financial ruin, or failure of any kind? Insert yourself in the story as Jairus. Listen to Jesus’ words. Jesus told the girl, “Arise.” Only God has the power to raise life, and only God has authority over death and life. The joy of Jesus’ resurrection means that for those who arise in Christ, sin and death are not permanent. Sin is not only a temporary experience, but through Christ, we have victory over it! What can we do differently to help us detach from an earthly view of our lives, from things that distract over and above the love of Christ? Do we believe we are made for eternity? St. Paul encourages us to live with God above all else so that,

You may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15)

Today, we are not commanded by Jesus to be silent as he told them in this story. But we are still commanded to not fear. Don’t be afraid. Only believe.

By Dn. Eric Vozzy