Translation of the Epistle for the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost
Brethren, be followers of me, and observe them who walk so as you have our model. For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things. But our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we looked for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory, according to the operation whereby also He is able to subdue all things unto Himself. Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved, and most desired, my joy and my crown: so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. I beg of Evodia, and I beseech Syntyche to be of one mind in the Lord: and I entreat thee also, my sincere companion, help those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.
Translation From the Holy Gospel According to Matthew
At that time, as Jesus was speaking to the multitudes, behold a certain ruler came up, and adored Him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead; but come lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus, rising up, followed him, with His disciples. And behold a woman, who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the hem of His garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only His garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a tumult, He said: Give place; for the girl is not dead, but sleeps. And they laughed Him to scorn. And when the multitude was put forth, He went in and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. And the fame thereof went abroad into all that country.
Transcription of Homily
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
A certain ruler, an αρχων – archon –… Αρχων has multiple meanings: It could be a ruler, it could be a civil leader. In this case, it’s a synagogue official. It could also be a prince, you know, it could also be, like, number one in the order of series. In fact, John’s Gospel begins with that word Ἐν ἀρχῇ, In the beginning, and, obviously, that beginning is the Prince Himself, Our Lord, in whom all things are created, for whom all things were created.
And so, this αρχων comes to the ultimate αρχων, Jesus Christ, and adores Him. Προσεκυνει – prosechunei –, he bows, he prostrates himself. This is something that Jews would not normally do before a human person, much less an image, a graven image, because this was a gesture reserved for God, and, nonetheless, this man knows Who it is that he’s going to ask this favor from.
Our Lord made this prohibition, right?, of making graven images in Genesis because He defined Himself as an all-consuming fire, a jealous God. And this notion of not making graven images regarded man’s initiative in creating something that would receive veneration that is proper to God Himself. So, Our Lord wanted this void, this vacuum of images, as a way of preparation for the One who is the Image of the invisible God, as Paul calls Him in the Christological hymn at the beginning of Colossians, that He is the Image of the invisible God. And so, this is nothing short of divine initiative. Finally, we have an image. And because we have the Incarnation and, as a result, an Image of God, we can make graven images. We can also use the Holy Name because it’s been made incarnate. And so, this all starts with this beautiful encounter between God and Moses on Mount Sinai in this Trinitarian revelation in which the invisible Father is present, and the Holy Spirit is depicted by the flame that does no harm to the bush, and the voice itself is the Logos. The Fathers would see the bush as Our Lady, who was the vehicle to bring God into the world, who remains a virgin as she gives birth, just as this bush in the desert was on fire and not consumed, not destroyed.
This αρχων has a name. Matthew doesn’t say it, but Mark does, and his name is Jairus. And he is a grieving father. He’s just lost his daughter. He’s left his daughter’s body, he’s left his grieving family, and he goes to Christ seeking a solution, and he comes with great boldness.
Christ is seated, eating with His friends, speaking with His friends – kind of an image of heaven to be with God and to eat with Him and to speak with Him – and this man interrupts, and Our Lord is not undone by that interruption. I forget the Church Father who said that if we become irritable or impatient because our prayer has been interrupted, we weren’t really praying. Well… just throwing it out there. Well, this man comes in and he not only interrupts this meal, this convivial atmosphere with his petition – I can imagine for those that were with Christ the whole mood changes, but Our Lord is unflappable. And He’s so humble when the man even tells Him how to do what He’s supposed to do. “I want you to come and lay your hand on my daughter and raise her from the dead.” And Christ, you know, doesn’t feel like He’s being micro-managed by a mere mortal. He, in His humility, gets up and does what He was asked to do.
With great boldness, this man approached Him. Remember, too, that Christ had just a few verses before this Gospel, revealed Himself as the universal Bridegroom. That’s really important for this passage. But this notion of interruption in order to fulfill a mission really explains the entire Incarnation itself, right? He interrupts His heavenly rest, the joys of heaven in order to take upon Himself human flesh and enter into our lives, and he becomes something of a magnet for sorrow, misery, suffering, woe. And in this divine commerce, as he takes upon Himself our brokenness, our misery, our sorrow, our pain, He gives all sorts of divine gifts. Our Lord is attracted to these pains. And that’s why the man, it says, approached him, προσελθων – proselthon -. The man approached him. And it’s going to be the same thing, that we see this magnetic attraction of the woman who will also approach him to reveal her sorrow or suffering, προσελθουσα – proselthousa – the feminine version of it. He approaches Him. And again, something exudes from Him.
So, Our Lord is about to do miracle number one and it gets interrupted by miracle number two, and it says και ιδου – kai idou – and behold -. So all of a sudden this is a behold this is a surprise element as if it weren’t expected. Obviously, this is all woven into one overarching providential plan, so we can’t really surprise our Lord and, nonetheless, it came as a surprise. And this woman in her humility, in her faith above all, approaches but doesn’t dare speak. She just wants to, again, much like Jairus, on her own terms come to Him and demand a miracle, but in her case, it’s just touched the hem of His garment, perhaps the tassel that a Jewish man would wear and she gets more than she bargained for. The fatalist Roman Horus says carpe diem, right?, cease the day. Well, she seizes the Lord of the Day, and He turns around, just what she didn’t want, He turns around, looks her in the face, He takes in her entire persona by looking at her, and appropriates her, and tells her to be courageous daughter.
So notice this filial relationship there is manifest, thy faith has made thee whole. Whole. (Jerome says kind of in alliteration of Fs, confide filia fides tua te salvam fecit.) Ζεσωκεν σε – zesoken se – you have been saved, you have been made whole.
This word σώς – sos – in Greek is fascinating because it has the notion of the quality of wholeness but it also means something that purdurs. So when snow is σώς, it’s snow that never melts, like a glacier. When a wellspring is σώς it’s it’s it never runs dry. When a fire is σώς it never goes out. And so, this woman is made whole. This being saved then is a complete finished act, but it’s not something that our Lord just said in motion much like the theistic founders of this country, the deists, would think of God’s involvement with us: The clockmaker. He just made a clock. He winds it up and he walks away, and, you know, off to the races, each one goes his own way.
The way Our Lord acts is when he enters into one’s life, there is a radical change but this ongoing healing, this ongoing relatability is open-ended. It doesn’t happen in a moment in the past. The encounter happened in an instant, but it’s open-ended And so, this woman’s life is completely transformed, and her every word, her every thought, action, after this encounter with Christ is going to somehow be subsumed by this being made whole by Christ. It’s supposed to be definitive it’s supposed to be defining.
We can ask ourselves, too, how defining and how definitive our confessions. When I go to our Lord, and he makes me whole, in the forgiveness, do I allow His transforming hand to do what only He can do? Do I allow Him to do that? He certainly wants to.
And so, as Our Lord makes this woman whole, He heals her, He goes to finish up miracle number one, and He finds the mourners keening; must have been really making a much of a din in their lamentations. And we see how shallow their wailing is when He says that the girl is not dead but sleeps, and they begin to mock him. They begin to laugh. So, the mask of morning falls. There’s this almost a demonic manifestation through this derisive laughter, this mocking of the Word-Made-Flesh who makes a pronouncement. And Christ ignores their mocking. He’s above that. He treats them like Moses treats the Red Sea. He just kind of parts them, and they make way for Him; αναχωρειτε – anachoreite – withdraw. And they make a path, and he walks into the house of the dead girl, and he calls κοράσιον – chorasion – right?, little girl, little girl.
She is now more Christ’s than her father’s.
And soon, she can say with Paul as he says in Thessalonians, Our Lord Jesus Christ has died for us so that we awake or asleep might share one life with Him. And she’s going to awake, awaken to the face of a bridegroom, the one for whom she was created. What a beautiful waking that must have been to not only come back to life; it’s not like there’s a life continued, it’s a restored life, and it’s a restored life in Christ, because He did, as Jairus asked, He placed His hand on her. It says, εχρατησεν – exhratesen – He took hold of her with his hand. Κρατος – kratos – means power. And He brings about what only He can do.
How often does Our Lord also reach out to us, and we wrestle away from Him? He wants to do so many things for us, through us, and in us. He wants to do so many things that only He can do, and He requires our cooperation, and we don’t want it. We want to avoid His will. We don’t allow our times of Adoration, our Confessions, or times of mental prayer to be defining. We don’t allow Him to do what only He can do. He needs this trust from us in order to make us whole, to make us σώς in a definitive way. So, when she opens up her eyes, she can say with Psalm 118, The right hand of the Lord has struck with power. The right hand of the Lord has raised me up. I shall not die, but live to proclaim the works of the Lord. And thus, may it be also for us.
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
— Fr. Ermatinger