Fr. Luke A. Veronis serves as the Director for the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, pastors Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster, MA, and teaches as an Adjunct Instructor at both Holy Cross and Hellenic College. He also taught at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (2005-2008). Fr. Luke has been involved in the Orthodox Church’s missionary movement since 1987. Together with his family, he served as a long-term cross-cultural missionary in Albania more than 10 years (1994-2004), and as a short-term missionary in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana for 18 months (1987-91). Since 2010, he teaches a summer missions class which he takes to Albania for two weeks every year. He has led four mission teams from his church to build homes for the desperately poor through Project Mexico. His published books include Go Forth: A Journal of Missions and Resurrection in Albania (2010); Lynette’s Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe’s Life and Death (2008); and Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations (1994). Fr. Luke teaches the Preaching course at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, as well as numerous classes in Missiology and World Religions. His weekly sermons since January 2013 can be found at http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/ Fr. Luke is married to Presbytera Faith Veronis, and they have four children.
DO YOU WANT TO BE MADE WELL?
Do you want to be made well?
Imagine Jesus asking someone who has been paralyzed for 38 years the question, “Do you want to be made well?”
It seems ridiculous. Someone who has been sick and suffering for 38 years would obviously want to be healed, right?!? Yet, Jesus asked the question probing for a deeper answer. “Do you really want to be healed, because if you are healed I will expect you to live a new life, a different life from before?” I desire a holistic healing that goes far beyond one’s physical ailments. Do you want this?
If one wants to keep living life as they have always been living, then it’s better to say, “No. I don’t want to be healed.” Don’t turn to Christ for healing because then you can go on and continue living like the past 38 years. If, on the other hand, one says “Yes” to Christ’s offer of healing, than something must change, something different will happen. Not only something will happen TO you (such as a miraculous healing), but something will be expected from you – YOU will have to change the way you live!
We see this clearly after Jesus healed the paralyzed man. His final words to the healed man were “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon you.” He healed the man, yet he expected something more from him. Sin no more. Go and become a new person – a person living according to God’s will and ways.
Whenever we pray to God and turn to Christ for something – whether healing, or help in a tough situation, or a way to resolve a problem, or for wisdom and discernment in our life – whenever we turn to God for help we have to be prepared to change our lives. Our prayer shouldn’t be to simply get a free handout. Our prayer should put us in communion with God and help us better understand His will for us in our lives.
When we pray, we should not simply hope for God to give us what we want, but we must be ready for Him to challenge us and expect something more from us. For ultimately, God is not concerned solely with some physical healing, or with some limited understanding of life, but He wants to lead us to a place where we can understand the “abundant” life He promises, a life filled with His grace and love, a life lived according to His ways of mercy, kindness and goodness.
St. Paul explains it this way, ‘Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, and you will know how pleased God is with His will for you and what God wants you to do” (Romans 12:2). Let God transform us into a new person!!!
There a simple story of such transformation with a village farmer back in the late 19th century who lived in the interior of China. He was losing his sight and he had heard about a Christian missionary doctor who might be able to help him. So he walked a far distance to come to a missions compound where the doctor performed operations to remove the cataracts from peoples’ eyes. The man came and was healed from his cataracts, and felt like a new person. So what would he do with his new life? Would he simply go back to being a farmer? How would he respond to this great blessing? Well, the answer came a few days later when the doctor looked out his window and saw the same man coming back to the compound holding the end of a long rope. In single file behind him, holding onto the rope, were several dozen other Chinese whom the farmer had rounded up and led for miles to the missions compound so that the doctor could work the same “miracle” on the eyes of others! This farmer understood that he was a new person who couldn’t keep the blessing for himself, but had to share it with others. Because his sight had been restored, he wanted others to receive the same blessing!
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom highlights this expected transformation when we encounter Christ and His power to change our lives. “When we come to God, asking Him to heal us, we must prepare ourselves beforehand for healing. To be healed does not mean to become whole only in order to go back to the same kind of life that we lived before; it means to be whole in order to begin a new life, as if we realized that we died in the healing action of God; that the illness was of the old man in us – that is, the corruptible body which the Apostle Paul speaks about. This old man must die in order for the new man to live. We must be ready to become this new man through the death of the old in order to begin to live anew: like Lazarus, who was called out of the tomb not simply to go back to his previous life but in order that, having lived through something, which cannot be described by any human words, he might re-enter into life with new foundations.”
Jesus longs to meet each one of us at where we are – with all our weaknesses, our illnesses, our failures, our addictions, our insecurities, our brokenness. He won’t criticize us for our broken situation. He will only ask us, “Do you want to be healed? Do you want to leave your illnesses and addictions and failures behind you, and begin a new life with me? If so, come!” And Jesus promises that He will never turn anyone away who comes to him. And if we come with a sincere desire for healing, and an open heart to God, then He is ready to transform us into a new creation. “Old things will pass away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
So today let each of us think about our own lives. For what do we need healing? What is broken in our lives? Where do we need to make a new beginning? Whatever each of us brings to Church today, let us turn to Christ ask him for healing. But we have to be ready for the question, “Do you want to be healed?”
Let us boldly say, “Yes, Lord. I want to be healed. And I’m ready to live the new life that you offer me. A transformed life in You!”
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