Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost.
The Seventh Sunday after the Holy Cross.
Our Venerable Father Joannicus the Great.
The Holy Martyr Nicander, Bishop of Myra.
The Priest Hermas.
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2:09 PM 11/7/2012 — As I said before, I've been making a concerted effort to not repeat myself this year in my homilies, and I've been moderately successful by choosing to talk to you about the Apostolic reading rather than the Gospel of the day. It seemed appropriate especially since, due to the “Lucan jump,” the two readings are not paired with one another this year. But the passage from Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, which is indicated for this 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, is nothing more than Paul hammering away at the relationship between faith and works as he tries to stay one step ahead of the detractors who are trying to impose the old Jewish customs on Paul's converts, reiterating what he said to the Galatians on the previous two Sundays, and to the Corinthians the Sunday before that. This, combined with the fact that I had to be away this past week with little time to think about today's homily, leaves me little choice than to re-work my thoughts from a previous time; but, you should be used to it by now. So, we change course once again to look at the Gospel lesson, today being the one ordinarily prescribed for the 24th Sunday.
The two individuals who seek cures from our Lord—one for herself, and the other for his daughter—are both motivated by a deep faith in the Lord Jesus, and both of them must contend with forces which seek to dissuade them. The Rabbi from the Synagogue must face the despair of reality, when he is told that his daughter is dead and he is too late in summoning our Lord. The woman with the hemorrhage is a particularly interesting case: most Scripture scholars agree that what St. Luke here calls a “hemorrhage” is, in fact, what is referred to in polite society as a “female problem.” The fact that it’s been unchecked for twelve years indicates its seriousness; but, more to the point, it also means that she’s unclean according to Mosaic law, and is forbidden to touch any man under pain of stoning, which puts her attempt to secretly touch the tassel of our Lord’s cloak in a unique perspective.
Both she and the Rabbi ignore these hardships because they were not interested in pleasing anyone else's rules.
To put it bluntly, if my primary goal in life is to please our Lord so that I can be saved, then what our Lord requires of me in life cannot be a burden; I will not shy away from what the Gospel requires because it tends toward the ultimate goal that I have set for myself, which is the salvation of my soul. If, on the other hand, I have other motives—my personal comfort, success in my employment, the accumulation of wealth, the satisfaction of my natural urges, or simply the esteem of others—then my faith, even if practiced with regularity and devotion, will still leave me empty and longing, and its obligations will seem burdensome to me, because they do not tend toward that which I have made the focus of my life. And you see this quite frequently among people for whom the practice of their Faith has become a matter of fulfilling obligations:
“Why do I attend the Divine Liturgy on Sunday? Because the Church says I must do so.
“Why do I fast during Lent? Because I am required to.
“Why do I marry according to the law of the Church? Because my Church and my family expect it of me.
“Why do I practice my faith in this particular Church? Because it is common for someone of my ethnic background to do so.”
And then when a crisis comes in our lives—as it always does—and we turn to our Church to give us solace and answers, we are disappointed to find that it has few to give, not because the Church has failed us or is somehow defective, but because we have failed to invest ourselves in the very purpose of our Church and our faith, which is the salvation of our souls. Our lives are motivated by other things, and one cannot see the destination if one is facing in the wrong direction. Just like the sick woman who touched our Lord’s cloak and was cured: our Lord said to her, “Your faith has healed you,” not to suggest that she accomplished this miracle all by herself, but because she threw aside every other concern and risked everything to pursue our Lord, which is what enabled our Lord to help her.
The ultimate goal of man is God. Our one reason for being on this earth is to work out our salvation. Everything else is just passing time. Try as we might to obtain some kind of personal fulfillment by this accomplishment or that goal, what our Holy Father Augustine said so many centuries ago remains true: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
Father Michael Venditti
* Due to the "Lucan Jump," the Gospel read today is that for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. Cf. the note appended to the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.