Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him entreating him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he had come, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
Acts 9: 32-42 (Epistle on the Sunday of the Paralytic)
Christ is Risen!
The third Sunday after Pascha is called “The Sunday of the Paralytic.” The Wednesday after this Sunday is called the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, which marks the half-way point between Pascha and Pentecost. The Gospel of Mid-Pentecost is from John 7 and in it the temple leaders chastise Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, a reference to the Gospel of this weekend about the healing of a Paralytic, which occurred on a Sabbath, as told in John 5. So, the two Gospels are related.
The Epistle reading, which we reflect on today, is also about healing. In this passage, Peter heals two people. One is a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed. Peter says to Aeneas, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you.” (Acts 9:34) Peter then raises from the dead a woman named Tabitha, who was also called Dorcas.
There are two things that stand out in today’s Epistle Lesson. In last Sunday’s Epistle, we talked about the two basic works of the early Church—to spread the Word of God and to feed the hungry. Today we are introduced to the third basic work of the Church which is healing. The healing ministry of the Church involves both physical and spiritual healing. There have been instances where prayer and miracles have cured people who are chronically ill, even dying. These are indeed miracles. There are also times when doctors have worked to miraculously cure someone who should not have recovered from injury or disease.
When Peter went to heal Aeneas, he was quick to invoke the name of Jesus Christ, that it was indeed Christ who would be doing the healing. Peter was there as a vessel. So, the first point to make today regarding healing is that if everything that is good comes from God (James 1:17), and healing is a good thing, then healing comes from God, but it often comes through the hands of someone like a doctor. A doctor’s hands may provide physical healing. The guidance of a priest may bring about spiritual healing. The empathy of a friend may help bring about emotional healing. However, it is Christ who is the healer. Those who help provide the healing serve as Christ’s vessels—His hands, His heart, His kindness. This is why I have always believed that the medical profession is not a vocation but a ministry. It is a service by which God works through the hands of doctors and nurses to bring about healing to those who are sick. Even if a doctor feels that what he or she is doing is routine, the healing of a sick person is a small miracle each time it happens. God provides the wisdom and knowledge to the medical professional, who provides healing for the patient. God is the healer. The medical worker is the vessel through which God heals.
The second point is that the healing ministry of the church is something that each member of the church is called to participate in. Surely there are doctors and medical personnel who work in doctor’s offices and hospitals and their vocation is to heal. Their calling is to provide healing on an every-day, full-time basis. The priest is called to be an every-day healer of the soul as his calling, as his vocation. However, whatever ones calling or vocation is, there is a calling, and ample opportunities, to be a healer, to be one of God’s healing vessels. When you can offer some relief, or some “healing” to someone, you also become one of God’s healing vessels. Even the physically healthiest people in the world suffer from the diseases of being misunderstood, being sad, feeling frustrated, and being lonely. When we lend a sympathetic ear, a word of encouragement, the gift of patience, or a gesture of friendship and inclusion, we can help to heal these “diseases.” Or rather, Christ can heal these diseases through us, His vessels of healing.
We all have the power to be one of God’s healing vessels. All it takes is a heart that is soft and eyes that are open, looking for the opportunity to “heal” someone by bringing the love of Christ to them.
When You had slumbered in the flesh as one mortal, O King and Lord, You rose again on the third day, and raised up Adam from decay and rendered death of no effect. Pascha of incorruption, salvation of the world. (Exapostilarion of Pascha, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be God’s healing vessel to someone who is “sick” today!