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Orthodox Spirituality

Sermons of Archpriest Anthony B. Gavalas

'Someone Touched Me'

28 October/10 November 2002

+ + + In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. + + +

Someone touched Me, says our Savior. Someone of that great crowd of people that was around Him touched Him. And a woman who for many years had had a hemorrhage was healed. And in her joy at being healed, in her relief at being saved from this debilitating and embarrassing illness, I think that she had one regret. I think that she had one thing that gnawed at her probably for the rest of her life. What took me so long? What took me so long to go there? Why did I waste so much time? Why did I waste so much in time and energy and money? Why did I waste so much when I could have gone sooner? I could have gone and been healed and had my health all of this time. Why did I wait so long?

For truly this woman had only that regret. Truly this woman had only that to grieve over, because she had been healed. The Source of all healing, the Source of all blessing, the Source of life itself had healed her. Why did she wait so long? But isn't this a question that so many of us and the world itself should be asking itself? Why do we wait so long to come to Jesus Christ?

We have griefs; we have worries; we have illnesses. And we seek in every way except Jesus to resolve these. We're tired, we think that a change of place, a change of climate is going to give us our strength back. We have worries, and we think that if we get together with a crowd of our cronies and go out to whatever places are open to these kinds of situations, that these are going to lighten our load, and we will be once again happy.

We think that somehow the things that are of this world are going to cure the problems of this world. There's a theory of that with people who drink, who think that the results of their drunkenness can be helped by drinking some more. But all they are doing is destroying their health, destroying their families, and in the end destroying themselves totally. What makes any one think that those things that have been prepared not by God but by the prince of this world, that he has fooled us into thinking are the cures for our griefs and our sadnesses and our depression, that these things are really cures. When all they are is ways of reinforcing the behaviors that have brought us to this condition. For what is more depressing than a crowd of people leaving one of these centers of entertainment after they have drunk, after they have made fools of themselves, after the music has stopped, and all there is is the echo of the band and the stench of cigarette smoke? What is more depressing? And yet time after time, day after day, the same people go to the same places and have the same results. In a textbook on psychology this is called insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and having the same negative result is insanity, even by science's measure of the word. And yet how many people seek Jesus Christ first? How many people seek the Master, our Creator, our Savior, our Redeemer first? Most people, if they do find Jesus, find Him after they have spent their lives, after they have spent their money, after they have spent their strength, in some cases broken themselves and their families. And when they find Jesus the only grief that they have is the same thing that the woman who was cured had. What took me so long?

This is why our fathers tell us to come to Christ early in our lives. This is how St. Iraneus of Leon tells us Give your Savior your heart when it is in a soft and tractable state. Give your heart to Jesus Christ when it is still soft so that He can mold it. Because as we have said our hearts like the rest of us are made of mud, of clay. We are very very foolish when we say that now that I'm young I will live the life of the young, and when I get older I will repent. I will have the opportunity to confess; I will have the opportunity to come to Holy Communion. But for now life is for me; life is for the young; life is for me now. Saying such things people do not realize that our clay hearts are baked as I have said before and I will say probably every other sermon. Our hearts are clay and this clay heart is baked hard by the fires of the passions, and in old age it is very difficult to change.

So many of us are like that big crowd that thronged Jesus. You heard the description. The crowd was so great around Jesus that they pushed Him here and there. In some places He hardly was walking Himself. The crowd was carrying Him along pushing Him. So many of us are like that crowd. We want to be close to Jesus we think. We want to be close to Him because we see that something wonderful is there. We come close; we even push Him; we demand His time, especially on those occasions when we think it's appropriate as Christians to be very, very pious around Holy Week, around a few days before we try to take Holy Communion. We try to be pious at that time, and we force ourselves on Jesus. Do you think He really pays attention to that? Those people wanted to be close to Him because they heard beautiful things. They saw He was a miracle worker. They wanted to be near Him. But none of them touched Him. In that crowd, in that throng of people, pushing, shoving, trying to get His attention. Only one person touched Him.

There are places in the Holy Scriptures that one never, ever gets used to reading, and can never read without even a stony heart being moved. One of them is that scene between our Savior and the Caananitish woman. She was not a Jew; she was not of the people of Israel. But she came to Christ asking that her daughter be saved from a demon. But our Savior wanting to show the greatness of her faith rejected her, and showed contempt for her, and said I'm not going to do anything for you. It's not right to take the children's food and throw it to dogs. And the woman answered Him Yes, Lord. You're right . I'm a dog. But don't dogs eat from the leftovers and from the things that fall from the children's table? That's all I'm asking for.

And another one is this today. This woman, who for all of her unworthiness, because according to the law she was unclean. This kind of a disease, not only on a monthly basis, but when it came in such a chronic form rendered the woman ritually unclean. And she had no right to come close to a teacher of the law. She had no right to be where she was. And yet she knew very well. She had finally come to the conclusion. That this was going to be her only hope. This is the only place she is going to be cured; this is the only Person Who can help her. And regardless of her condition, such was her trust and such was her faith, that she came, not in front of Christ but behind Him. Her fear not only came from inside of her because she knew that she had no business there, but because she was afraid that someone in the crowd--and we have such people in church too sometime--would say You know, get away from Him. You shouldn't be touching Him. You're sick. For we have such people unfortunately in church who believe they are the guardians and who can tell people if and when they should approach the chalice; if and when they should approach Christ; who take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of what is right and what is not. And she was afraid that she might be discovered by one of these well wishers and publicly humiliated. But even that she overcame, and touched Jesus, and was touched by Him, and was cured, and she is an object of our glory and our consolation two thousand years later. This poor woman.

My beloved brothers and sisters, there is no greater consolation than Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact there is no other consolation but Jesus Christ. There is no cure, for if doctors work a cure it is by the grace of Jesus Christ. We are instructed to revere the physician and to go to him, but to understand him as we understand the priest, that he is the hands of God, not God. If we are ever to be consoled, our consolation must be Jesus Christ. Do not expect consolation; do not expect relief; do not expect anything from the machinery of this world. Because the machinery of this world, behind the stage, is the devil himself. Whether it is in a club, whether it is in whatever means that we have humanly speaking of seeking our relief. Only Jesus, He has always been the only One; He has always been our only consolation, our only cure, and our only relief.

I beg you my brothers and sisters; I beg you not to waste another second of your lives; I beg you not to waste another split second of this precious gift that God has given us, that is time. Lest at the end when you finally do discover Christ you bewail and berate yourself that you have wasted your time.

Seeking our Savior from now, regardless of our spiritual uncleanliness, for in this we have as an example this woman, regardless of our spiritual disorder, let us seek Him, that finding Him we might have the consolation of knowing Him here in this life, and a portion of the Kingdom that has been promised to those who have loved Him and who have given their lives to Him. Even to Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom together with His Father and the Holy Spirit is due honor and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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