Once on a Sabbath Day, Christ reached out and healed a woman from eighteen years of suffering as He said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” (Luke 13.12) The Jewish leaders were furious that Christ would dare “work” on the Sabbath, a day while work was not allowed by God. As we continue preparing ourselves to receive Christ for Christmas, it is time for us to have compassion and mercy for others as more important than following the exact rules of the Church.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you, and will inspire you to re-dedicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
Today in the gospel, my brothers and sisters, we hear about another miracle of our Lord. And this miracle is not a small one, as it talks about a woman, who for 18 years, was very ill. It says that she was bent over. She couldn't even look up. Now think about that for a moment. Think about the burden that this woman had going through life, bent over, being able to look only at the ground at her feet. Think about just spending one day like that, not being able to look up. Forget about seeing the clouds and the trees and the birds but she couldn't even look up in her prayers to God. All she could do was stare at the ground.
And Christ calls her over, and he says, "You have been released. You have been freed. You have been set free from your infirmity, from your illness." What a beautiful message that that sends us from God. She didn't even ask for anything. He called her over because he knew her condition, and he had compassion on her, and he had mercy on her, and he healed her at that moment. And her reaction, which also should be a lesson for us, is that she glorified God.
But the other part of this message, my brothers and sisters, the message continues like this, "But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. And he says to her, 'There are six days on which men ought to work, therefore come and be healed on them and not on the Sabbath day.'" The leader of the synagogue, this ruler was obedient to the law. He probably followed every letter of the law. He probably could go to bed at night saying, "Eh, I'm pretty good. I did everything right today."
But his heart didn't understand the law of God. The law, of course, in the Old Testament, there are thousands of laws in the Old Testament, and among them was that no work was to be done on the Sabbath, which is Saturday. Even to this day, there are many Jews who have maintained the law. They do no work on Saturday, they don't cook, they don't even turn the light switch on, because turning the light switch is symbolic of lighting a fire, and lighting a fire is work. And so they don't even flip the light switch because they're too afraid to disobey the law of God.
So, they yell at this woman, "You should have come on the other days, not on the Sabbath day." As our Lord is so good at doing, he goes straight to the core. And he says, "You hypocrites, doesn't each one of you go and release your animals so they can eat and drink on the Sabbath? And here this woman, shouldn't she at least be released? So she could have the refreshment?" Think about what these people were willing to do. They were treating the animals as more worthy of their compassion than this woman. I'm afraid that many people in our society do the same thing today. We forget about the value of the human being. And sometimes, we tend to treat animals with greater respect than our fellow human beings.
So Christ says, "Isn't she worthy?" And of course she goes on, and she's healed, and she glorifies God. My brothers and sisters, as we are preparing for Christmas, I know that I tell you we should fast. I know that I tell you that we should read our scriptures. I know that I tell you that we should be taking care of the poor and that we should be coming to church. But these rules of our church, these traditions of our church, are not so that we follow them out of obedience to God alone, but that they prepare our hearts to be able to see our brothers and sisters with the love that God sees them. As we are preparing to welcome Christ into the world at Christmas, wouldn't it be nice if we could assist our brothers and sisters to be released from what has bound them?
How many of maybe even those of us who are here today are tied down by sin, by temptation, by the devil? Because he doesn't stop trying to keep us away from God. Or are we too wrapped up into following our own set of rules, and doing our metanias exactly so many times per day? It's not that those things are not important. It's not the law of God is to be totally ignored. But the rules of our church, the laws of God, my brothers and sisters, are so that our hearts are prepared to receive Christ and to treat each other as Christ would want us to treat them, with love and mercy and compassion.
And so this week, I have a challenge for you. This week, while you are fasting, while you are still reading your scriptures and saying your prayers and doing your metanias, my challenge for you this week, my brothers and sisters, for each one of us, I'm challenging myself also. Pick up the phone and call one person and say a good thing to them. "Yanni, I just called to see how you're doing. I just called to tell you that I'm thinking about you. I just called to tell you that I love you." Don't get into an argument with Yanni. Don't expect Yanni to defend himself if he did something wrong to you 27 years ago. But pick one person in your life that you think might be struggling, that you think might be like this woman suffering, and give that person a little bit of comfort. Help them be released from their burden. Help them be able to straighten up just a little bit. How many times?
One of the conditions that our society is really suffering with is there are a lot of people who have depression. A lot of people go through life depressed. And when we are depressed, what is our physical mood? We're down like this. We're cast down. We're bent over, sometimes even physically. How beautiful if we could loosen them from that bondage? Our friends, our family, our neighbors, whoever it might be. That would better prepare our hearts for Christmas this week, Christmas is only a few weeks away, than doing a thousand metanias in front of our icons. Because our fellow human beings deserve love and mercy and compassion, greater than anything that we're willing to show our cats and our dogs and our horses and the animals of our world. Then our hearts would speak the love of God and maybe, just maybe, someone could be set free from their bondage of depression or any other spiritual illness. Glory to God for all things.
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