Today we are here celebrating, with pomp and circumstance, the resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. This celebration does not stand-alone; it is adjoined to the Passion, Crucifixion, and Burial of our Lord. So, as in the history of the Orthodox Church, which is often forgotten in our day, Maundy Thursday, Holy Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday are not seen as separate religious observances, isolated with its own purpose, but rather all three observances are seen as one, having a singular divine purpose. If such were the case, then I would postulate “all” of the religious observances of the Church, the “major” Feast Days and the ones that we might consider “minor,” are to be considered one singular divine movement from one end of the liturgical calendar to the other…from the beginning of time, to present and into the future…for is not Christ eternally begotten of the Father, having no beginning or end. So likewise, this experience of Great Lent centers on the Christ, who, as the Bible say, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Therefore, our fasting is not confined to 50 days. Our experience of a “greater” prayer life is not isolated to this Fast alone. Our turning away from certain foods is not only for this time period; but for many of us, it is medically recommended to continue it, at least is some sort of modified way, throughout the year. The “extra” steps that we took to refrain from sinful behaviors or excessive desires is not be seen as a struggle for only Lent, but one that must be continued, probably with more intensity, after today.
Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is anything but triumphant. He rode in on a donkey to enter the gates of Jerusalem. Further, he himself knew this was the beginning of the end, at least in human terms. That is, in the days approaching, he would be betrayed by all, especially by one of his own, and eventually be killed by the plot of the Jews and the authorities of Rome. If we were to stage our own “triumphant” entry in the context of the 21st century, we would “roll in” with the best car, best attire, best shoes, and best perfume. But Christ showed us that to be triumphant has little to do with wealth, prestige, honor, power or glory. Rather, it has everything to do with “humility.” That’s right! Humility! Humility is the key to salvation--so declare the Fathers of the Church. The definition of humility is: a person’s ability to conduct themselves in all things without pride or arrogance.
In the Gospel Reading, taken from John chapter 9, we see that Jesus has an encounter with a blind man in the Jerusalem Temple. It seems that at first it was the disciples who noticed the blind man and asked Jesus why he was born blind, that is, was it due to the sins of his parents or of his own. Jesus answered by saying that he is blind neither because of his sin nor his parents but for the glory of God. At this moment, Jesus took mud from the ground and spit on it, making a sort of mud-paste, anointed the blind man’s eyes and then asked him to go to the pool and wash it out. The blind man was healed.
In the Gospel Reading today, taken from St. Luke 13: 10-17, our Lord Jesus healed a woman who had a “spirit” of infirmity for eighteen years that caused her to have a bent back. Slouching over and gazing on the ground for that long, it would be correct to assume that this woman was either in constant pain and/or had a very sad existence. The moment Jesus healed her; it would have been an exhilarating. It is interesting to note that the Lord saw her and called her toward him, so that he could heal her. She did not call out Jesus, nor does the gospel say she went toward him. The point is: Jesus saw her pain and had compassion. It would be accurate to assume that he felt sorry for the woman, or even, sympathized with her. Whatever the case, Jesus initiated the process, at least from what is written in the Gospel.
In the Gospel reading today, taken from the Gospel of Matthew chapter 15, we encounter a gentile woman from the area of Canaan. She approaches Jesus and asks that he heal her daughter who is “extremely” demon possessed. At first Jesus doesn’t answer. Then after a few moments, realizing that she wasn’t backing down, Jesus explains that he came for the Jewish people and not for the Gentiles. The woman, upon hearing this, pleads with Jesus, by worshiping him and saying, “Lord, help me.” But Jesus answered by way of a metaphor and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She in turn provides a surprising rebuttal: “Yes, even the little dogs eat the crumbs from their master’s table,” showing Jesus how great her faith was. Finally Jesus healed the woman’s daughter at that very moment.