The woman with the flow of blood (a menorrhagia) is the subject of the Gospel reading for the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost. The text comes from St. Luke 8: 41 – 56. He informs us: “…a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8; 43). This woman approached Christ from behind likely out of not only humility, but also shame since her bleeding made her unclean, thus removing her from the majority of social interactions. Though the experts of her day gave no healing, she turned to one more. She turned to the Physician — God Incarnate — Jesus of Nazareth: “If only I touch his garment I shall be made well.” Upon the touch, “…immediately the flow of blood ceased” (Luke 8: 44). When her healing occurred she was part of a large crowd that pressed in upon Jesus (Luke 8: 45). He asked who touched him. “Someone touched me, for I perceived power going out from me” (Luke 8: 48)
And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.Luke 8: 47 – 48
Again, this daughter of Abraham had tried all methods prescribed by the physicians practicing in the Greco-Roman tradition (i.e., the Galenical tradition) of the day. In spite of their best (of far less than best) efforts she encounter futility and failure. What is exposed is the limitations of solely human effort.
In addition to being an archpriest in the Orthodox Church, I am also a clinical pharmacist educated in the western allopathic medical tradition, as are the great majority of physicians practicing medicine today. Good come many times — many times. But I have observed, also, failures, and have heard of patients’ frustrations and complaints along with anger and tears.
Futility is not only found in medicine. It is found in law, finance, engineering, and any human practice — especially in politics. All can make their promises and claims yet can still fail patient, client, and country. Human wisdom and effort have their limitations! I am reminded of the the psalmist’s advice: “Put not your trust in princes, in sons of men in whom there is no salvation (LXX Ps 145: 3). I also refer to a sentence from the Greek Orthodox form of the Eucharistic Confession of the Divine Liturgy, “for it is good for me to cling to you, my God, and to place my hope of salvation in you.”
Touch Christ and cling to him! Touch him and cling to him by icons and by prayer. Touch him and cling to him in the Church’s sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist. I direct you especially to the Eucharist! As a communicant you receive the Body and Blood of Christ (John 6: 50, 51). You receive, thus, healing and the forgiveness of sins. You receive our Lord’s victory over sin and death, and the pledge of Christ of eternal life (John 6: 54). Come to him with the same faithful intent of the woman healed of menorrhagia as you stand in line to receive his sacrament and are touched by him!
The following is a corresponding homily: