The fast is a time of healing. It’s a time for us to wake up just like nature all around us is waking up from the long, cold and dreary months of winter. The snow is melting, plants are slowly coming into bloom, the days are longer and filled with more sunlight. In fact, the word “lent” is the Old English word for “spring”. For us, however, Great Lent is not a physical awakening but a spiritual awakening, a spiritual healing. Subsequently, the gospel lessons we are given throughout Great Lent are messages of healing.
On the first Sunday of Lent we heard how our Lord met Nathanael and told him, “When you were under that fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael was a little suspicious of this man named Jesus but when the Lord told him this he instantly exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” This reaction surprised even Jesus who asks him, You believe in Me simply because I said I saw you under the fig tree? The gospel doesn’t go into any detail of what happened to Nathanael under the fig tree, but it must have been an important moment in his life.
On the following Sunday we heard how a paralytic was carried by his friends to where Jesus was preaching. There was no other way to enter the house – since it was completely full – so the friends carrying the paralytic dropped him down from the roof. Our Lord seeing how great their faith was, healed the paralytic.
Last Sunday we were given the words of our Lord who says, “Whoever desires to come after Me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” There was no gospel message of healing last Sunday because we’ll remember that last Sunday was the Sunday of the Cross. However, let’s not forget that the Cross is the very symbol of our healing, the symbol of the healing of the entire world.
And then we come to this, the fourth Sunday of Lent and we hear how Jesus was preaching to a great multitude of people and someone comes from the crowd and asks “Teacher, I brought you my son who has a mute spirit….”. And, as the reading continues, we see that Jesus healed this young man.
The gospels -Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are filled with stories of healing. And in many cases we are told how Jesus happened to be passing by such and such a place and found someone in need and helped them. Such is the case, for example, in John chapter 9 where Jesus healed the blind man. We read in that chapter: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth…”. A similar thing happened when He raised the dead son of the widow of Nain found in St. Luke’s gospel. It is there that we read, “Now it happened…that He went into a city of Nain…And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out….” (7:11-12). In those, and other instances, Jesus seemed to be coincidentally passing by and found people who were in need of help.
But one of the characteristics of the healing gospels we are given during these weeks of Lent is that Jesus doesn’t find them any of the sick coincidentally, rather the sick come – or, in most cases, are brought – to Jesus. It’s like the words of Philip, from the gospel on the first Sunday of Lent, when he tells Nathanael about the Messiah from Nazareth named Jesus and tries to convince him to meet Him. Nathanael, a little suspicious about this supposed prophet is very reluctant to go. So Philip says to him, “Come and see.” Lent is precisely a time for us to seek out our healing and to respond to the Church who is calling us over and over again to Come and see!
Yesterday we had a wonderful Lenten retreat hosted by St. John’s Carpatho-Russian Church. Dr. George Parsenios was the guest speaker and he spoke about the Beatitudes. He spoke about each one individually and the Beatitudes as a whole. He made a very interesting point when he came to: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. He mentioned that we should take note that Jesus doesn’t say Blessed are the righteous….. Rather, He said blessed are the ones who “hunger and thirst for righteousness….”. In other words those that simply desire it are blessed, have a yearning for it and strive to attain it. It’s interesting that in this morning’s gospel message of healing the Lord tells the father of the young man that He can heal his son. In fact, our Lord says all things are possible to those who believe. The father says he believes but then confesses and prays, Lord, help my unbelief.
You know, in the gospels there is an underlining theme, an underlining message that we are not righteous. That all of us – no matter how good we might think we are – all of us are in need of God’s healing. And that healing that God bestows upon us is for both body and soul. That is the healing which we should hunger and thirst. It’s during these days of Great Lent that the church calls all of us not only to “come and see” but in the words of the Psalm David, we are all called to also “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Amen.