The Joy of the Miracle (10th Sunday of Luke)

5 December 2022

The scene described in today’s Gospel extract, for the 10th Sunday of Luke, is moving and also revealing, both as regards people’s disposition and sincerity and also the attitude of Christ. Among the crowd was a doddery woman. She was bent over, in pain, and although she heard the voice of Jesus, she was unable to see his form.

Jesus went up to the unfortunate woman, approached her. With tenderness he said: ‘Woman, you are freed from your infirmity’. Power coursed through her limbs and her body recovered. Praise and gratitude filled her heart; admiration, joy and exultation.

The hypocrisy of the ruler of the synagogue.

But envy and spiritual malice polluted the atmosphere of joy. The ruler of the synagogue was upset because Jesus had, supposedly, violated the rest day of the Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue was driven to this disgusting outburst by the envy which pervaded his soul at that moment. He wanted to attack Jesus but didn’t have the courage to admit openly what was going on in his soul. So he used the shadow of the law to hide his unlawful behavior.

The Lord responded immediately to the challenge, saying that the reaction of the ruler of the synagogue was hypocritical. He expressed his love for the person he’d cured and said: ‘You hypocrite… ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?’

As we’ve seen, the ruler of the synagogue hid behind the commandments of the law of God. But this isn’t the first time that people of ill will have used God’s Law and Gospel in order to fulfil their unlawful plans and to satisfy their worldly desires. Egotists use the word of God to draw attention to themselves, while the disobedient within the Church misinterpret it. Sometimes, in fact, they quote words from the holy Scriptures or the Fathers, depending on the occasion, to veil their egotism or willfulness, bending them to suit their purposes. In this way, instead of conforming to God’s commandments, people hide behind them and use them to conceal their personal animosity. They thus create heresies and other individual theories which wreak havoc in Christ’s Church. When the heart isn’t pure, it can’t interpret the divine word properly. This can only be done by a genuinely pure heart, because that alone understands it.

Self-knowledge, humility and love

What we have to know is that Christ isn’t bothered by what we do so much as by the reason why we do it. Usually our hostility and envy towards others, particularly in the name of Christ, are a pious way of establishing our own power and are the result of a lack of self-awareness and real love. When we have self-knowledge, we acquire true humility. Saint Isaac the Syrian says that consideration towards others follows humility. When humility isn’t followed by empathy towards others, it’s false modesty.

The law of the Temple

This is why we must all seek purity of heart and must depend on our godly Fathers, who became vessels of the All-Holy Spirit, were illumined by the Holy Trinity and thus, enlightened by the Comforter, interpreted the word of God and Holy Scripture. In this way we’ll learn that we’re the ones who are a bulwark to prevent our brothers and sisters from becoming overwhelmed and are preparing them for a transformation. We do so by experiencing the spirit of the law, or as Saint Athanasios so aptly put it, the mind of the law.

May our Triune God illumine us so that we can interpret his law correctly* and uncover the essence of our faith.

* The word used by Metropolitan Agathangelos here means ‘in an orthodox way’. ‘Orthodox’ itself comes from two Greek words meaning ‘correct’ and ‘thinking’. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to take ‘Orthodoxy’ as meaning ‘proper praise’ or ‘proper glory’ but this is not the real etymology (as reflected in the earliest Slavonic translations, where the term was rendered ‘pravoslovie’).

Source: Αγαθαγγέλου, Επισκόπου Φαναρίου, Η ζύμη του Ευαγγελίου, pp. 48-51.