The wounds of people’s infirmities rarely escape Jesus’ notice and he was always ready to offer a healing touch. The woman in the story was walking around the church bend over, to see how the world looks from her vantage point.
How does it feel to walk that way?
What are the burdens that weigh you down and bend you over?
Take a deep breath and stand up straight, offering your burdens to God.
Stretch out your hands in praise to God, who declares you have been “set free!”
Feel the tightness and pain, in your heart and on your body parts. Breathe in and breathe out slowly. Each time you exhale feel the pleasant soothing sensation you have in Lord Jesus Christ.
Slowly and deeply inhale and exhale. From what all things does God want to set you free today, to stand upright to work for him and praise his mercies?
Jesus was amazed by the faith of the Canaanite woman and her daughter was instantly healed.
The physical and practical nature of Jesus’ ministry is remarkable. Not only does he teach deep truths, but he also heals people who are sick or disabled and take time to feed a crowd of hungry people.
In what ways can we minister to people- caring for the “whole person”- as Jesus did?
To whom might we reach out today?
In the story of healing the paralytic, there were two categories of people around Jesus; those who were ‘hearing God’s words’ (they think they are close to God and listening to the Word!) but indirectly ‘blocking’ the needy from reaching God. The second category is those who helped the paralytic to reach God; those who are helping the needy to reach God.
Who are we?
Are we blocking (directly or indirectly) the needy from reaching God?
Are we helping the ‘needy’ to reach God to receive healing and blessings?
The study of the Bible is absolutely necessary for the nourishment of Christian life. The facts which the Scriptures present are the basis of faith in the Trinitarian God. Acquaintance with these prophetic and devotional facts in the light of the contemporary world realities is the only sensible means to imbibe and disseminate a true dynamic Christian faith. The nourishment of the Scriptures is necessary to the spiritual life as that of food to the body. The following Bible study is based on the Gospel reading on the ‘Sunday of the Leper’ from St. Luke 5: 12-16; and St. Luke 4: 40-42.
And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (St. Luke 5: 12-16).
When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ (St. Luke 4: 40-42).
To me these beautiful verses portrait various dimensions of Jesus ministry; for example his Gospel ministry, Social ministry, Prayer ministry, and Healing ministry are all mentioned here in an integrated fashion. The beginning of chapter five depicts Jesus gospel ministry; And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (St. Luke 5:10). This is followed by a portrait of Jesus social ministry; a depiction of his interaction with a marginalized, stigmatized and dehumanized leper is portrayed followed by a miracle of healing. Finally, Jesus prayer ministry is also depicted; he went to the wilderness for prayer and to refuel the spirituality for sustaining his ministry.
Let’s have a look at the context of Jesus social and healing ministry with the leaper. Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately leprosy left him (St. Luke 5: 13). If you look into this story, cracking the healing part, it is very clear that Jesus did something unconventional! He challenged the cultural misconceptions and social prejudice by ‘touching a leper’. The word challenge has got different meanings to different people. What does challenging means? Challenging does not mean ‘shoot first and ask questions later’, or disobeying parents or elders.
The term challenge has got a social meaning and implication, especially in a Christian context. Number one, it assumes that human beings are capable of using our freedom in a responsible way. Imagine you are standing on the top of the Sears Tower. You can see the traffic, cars, and trucks moving on the road like ants marching. When you watched closely you could see a car moving in the wrong direction. You could easily anticipate that it’s going to hit another car coming in the opposite direction. Can you do something? Of course, something can be done; but the point here is there are traffic rules and regulations and the car driver is supposed to follow them. She has the freedom to travel in wherever way she likes, the only presumption is that she will have to follow the driving regulations or rules. Friends, it’s up to us, whether to follow the right way or to head against the expectations; this is a kind of irresponsible and aimless challenging! Moreover, it’s our choice whether we want to enjoy the ‘myth of total freedom’ or behave in a responsible way.
Number two, challenging in a Christian context aims at social transformation. Social transformation is not a familiar concept in the Orthodox context. But it’s very important to live in the current sociopolitical context and to meaningfully involve and live in the present. Many times we are ignorant about the political and economic chaos and struggles around us. We may have little idea about what is happening in Syria or in Egypt; May not even heard that the fast-food employees in New York are on strike demanding minimum wages. The people and the world around us are going through various turmoil and challenges. What I’m trying to say is as an Orthodox Christian youth we also should get exposed to the social transformation activities like human rights-non-violence movements, Anti-war movements, and free software movements! The spirit of this argument is the bottom-line of Christian ideology; never dissociate our faith and life with the society, culture, art, work or with politics.
Young adulthood is the best time in human lifespan. You guys are full of energy, you guys look for fun, you guys look for innovation, and I believe you can also take part in Jesus social ministry. As we become older our energy level and enthusiasm decline. I believe in the power of youth. Take my words, the youth in our church can do a lot of challenging activities in the ministry of social transformation.
Follow the daily news, not the Cowboy or Mavericks insider; but news about what is happening around the world. Get updated about people’s struggle like what is happening in Wall Street in New York? Who is helped by raising the minimum wages? Why does the richest country (USA) in the world have the second highest child poverty? Why the land of the free is the home of the world’s largest prison population? Many youths are very alive in social networking sites. Get involved in the social campaigns for peace, justice, and humanity by sharing or liking on Facebook or Twitter. You may think you have better works to do, I know, but keep an eye on this too.
Why I’m saying this because we should acknowledge one thing: the so-called freedom we enjoy and the rights we have is not our privilege! We enjoy freedom because somebody fought for us sometime back and it’s truly Christian to do something back to society. Moreover, it’s a Christian ministry to take care of our fellow beings and our environment.
The bible verses say Jesus touched the leper; touching the leaper reflects the call for not to ‘discriminate’ anyone based on illness, cast, class, sex, race or even based on sexual preferences. This may be controversial, but the Kingdom of God is for everyone. Remember, touching a leper was controversial at the time of Jesus, but not in the 21st century. Believe in the magic of time and walk ahead of time!
At a more personal level, we can see Jesus is ‘empathizing’ with a leper. I mean there is an active component, not just the faith alone- he touched and healed. Proactive action is much higher than simply sympathizing (which we frequently do in our daily life). We feel sorry about a lot of things, we feel sorry about others illness, others fate, others helpless situations. We may say one hundred times that ‘I feel sorry about him/ her’ but there is any action. Of course, it is easy to sympathize and move on with our busy schedule. And that’s quite okay. But do something meaningful in your daily life (at least occasionally!) that can relieve someone’s stress, pain, or burden.
If possible, get involved in volunteer work, be a good listener, listen to someone, especially listen to old people, listen to their stories (Please, do not charge an hourly basis!) reassure them to make them feel their existence meaningful, write a blog, tweet something that can help and inspire your friends about your experience with a helpless person or situation. Let all these become part of your efforts to empathize with your fellow-beings in a Christian way. Remember it’s very hard to be a Christian!
The next theme portrayed is the prayer ministry; So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (St. Luke 5:16). Jesus withdraws to the wilderness for solitary prayer and meditation. And this is to refuel spirituality. We all need this kind of ‘spiritual refueling’ to get inspired for a meaningful life and to advance in our ministry as a true Christian.
The most important focus of this gospel passage is the fourth dimension; the ministry of healing. All those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them (St. Luke 4:40). However, I want to look healing from a broader perspective. We usually equate healing with well-being. We are working hard throughout our lives because we all need happiness, financial well-being, social well-being, health, and security. And that’s quite okay. But that’s not complete, remember, the Christian life is not a buffet! We are not supposed to take or eat what we like. And reject or ignore what we do not like. What I’m trying to say is, we need to accept illness just like health, bad things just like good things; sadness just like happiness, failures just like victories. And remember, healing need not always mean a ‘positive state of well-being’.
There are hundreds of Saints, Martyrs and Blessed fathers whose story depicts their agony, pain, and suffering in their Christian life. They all accepted suffering, they all praised God even in the midst of deadly sorrow! That could be one reason why we call them Saints.
Orthodoxy is a way of life that is continuously inspired by the life stories of the Saints. Unfortunately, the popular modern pleasure theology depicted Saints as the agents or mediators of blessings. But they are actually the witnesses, inspirations and role models of Christian life. Keep in mind that God’s primary purpose is not to bless us with pleasures, wealth, or happiness. But he is there to heal you! I may have to use St. Paul’s words to facilitate our understanding of healing. My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I hope this bible study could illuminate some insights into our perceptions and help us to reflect on our attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and actions in our faith journey. May God bless!
The Sunday before the Great lent is called the PETHRATHA Sunday. The Syriac word, ‘Peturta’ means “looking back” or “reconciliation”.
The Liturgical Season of Great Lent is one of the kinds of introspection- looking back to one’s own life, and of real reconciliation.
As a reminder one of the hymns in the Shubquono (Liturgy of Reconciliation) liturgy says, “Brethren, let us love one another, for it is the completion of the commandments.”
The reading is from St. John 2: 1-11; which depicts the Marriage at Cana, where we can see the first sign of the Son of Human.
Jesus and his friends were invited to a wedding feast in the city of Cana. The mother of Jesus was also there and she came to know that there was a problem with the supply of vine- they ran out of the vine.
When she knew this, she said to Jesus “they have no vine”;
Jesus replied: O women, what have you to do with me; what does this mean?
Does it mean that he was so harsh and saying; crap, who are you?
No. But it means “What you and I have to do with this;
It further means, never mind, don’t be worried!
He further says, “My hour has not yet come”; which means “I must wait for the right opportunity”.
Though Jesus tried to find excuses, his mother was so confident in him; she asked the servants to “do whatever he tells you”. Mary was so confident; “do not worry, he will find some way”.
The servants filled six stone jars with water, and Jesus said “Now draw some out…start serving”
Water was turned into vine; transformed into vine! And this became the first sign of Jesus and his disciples believed in him.
The take home is, reconciliation need to end-up with the transformation!
“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
According to the liturgical calendar of the Syriac Orthodox Church the Service of Reconciliation (Shubhkono), is celebrated on the first Monday of Great Lent, after the canonical office of the 6th Hour.
This service is a preparation for Great Lent, and forgiveness is
marked by 40 prostrations and the kiss of peace at the end of the service. The Church begins Great Lent with the ‘Day of Forgiveness,’ and sets her journey into penitence.
With kneeling and prostration, her people look ahead to Kymtho (resurrection), the great feast of the Light. Let us all ask forgiveness from everyone we may have wronged willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly so that our fast and prayers may be
pleasing to God.
O God help us that our reconciliation with you and with our fellow beings help us to transform from what we are to what we are supposed to be, to be more like you!
WATCH VIDEO: https://youtu.be/gDNs-_wza-c
The Sunday specifically to remember all the departed believers is called the ‘Aneede’ Sunday. The Syriac word ‘Aneede’ means the departed.
How blessed are we! How unique our faith is!
This may be the only Christian faith where you are a part of the continuum of life; a continuum of life that begins with the birth to the second coming of our savior Lord Jesus Christ and beyond.
Physical death is not a separation from the continuum of life: the departed believers are continuing their journey of salvation until the day of last judgment.
We are indeed blessed because we are also on this journey!
Neither life or death, nor the powers of the hell, or anything above or below is not going to separate us from the continuum of the love of God until we reach the final destination of eternity.
This is the only faith where you can participate in the Holy Communion along with the departed, the living and the heavenly beings.
Let’s come together this Sunday to remember all our departed forefathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, dear ones, known and unknown, and have communion with the creator God, who is beyond our human comprehension, in praise and worship!
Also, give the names of all the departed to be remembered in the Holy Qurbono!
The Lord is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Resurrection gives hope for the humanity.
Despite Christ is risen, our struggle to follow Christ will continue with all our fears and doubts.
But the good news is, He is risen!
He is risen to give us a new beginning…
He is risen to remind us that goodness is more powerful than evil…
He is risen to remind us that love is more powerful than hatred…
He is risen to remind us that faith is more powerful than doubt and despair…
Praying for people we know can be difficult-praying for people we don’t know is even more challenging.
Jesus said the temple was a place of prayer for all nations; where all people could come to God.
This year when we cry Hossanna, it should be a cry for the nations, a prayer for the people we don’t know, a plead to save not only us, but also those who are suffering and weeping across the nations…