This past Sunday the Gospel passage was about the woman who had an infirmity for 18 years and was healed by Jesus. On the surface another healing took place, however this one was a little different. Jesus healed this woman in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and that is a big no no. Right away the leadership gets mad and chastises him for healing her. Jesus fires back that each of them would save an animal if it got caught in something on the Sabbath why not this woman.
For me, this passage is more about the rules than about healing. We are faced with people who are caught up in the rules and not the fact that Jesus just saved this woman from a life of pain. I think that sometimes in the church the same thing happens. We get caught up in the rules and not necessarily in the fact that something miraculous is happening. Is the liturgy any less valid if it is served in the parking lot with no vestments, or rather in a splendid cathedral with all the trappings of the church. Now don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff, but is it necessary? The guys and gals serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have church on the back of HumV and the priest, if there is one, serves in his fatigues with his body armor on and maybe, has a stole on. Is this a valid service?
There is this term that we use in Orthodoxy called Convertitis. This is an affliction for us converts that we get hung up on all of the rules of the church and not on what the rules are for we cannot see the forest through the trees. Can we have oil today, is meat allowed this time of year, was my metania low enough, are the candles in the right place, did I say 300 Jesus Prayers and is my prayer rope tied right around my wrist. These are the kinds of questions that we converts ask ourselves. Notice I lumped myself in there…
What Jesus is saying here is not that the rules don’t matter but sometimes there are more important things than the rules. We have liturgical rules for a reason, so we don’t have priests just making things up, even though they do! The point is that sometimes for pastoral reasons we change things.
What is important is the Cross, the grave, the third day Resurrection as we say in the liturgy. That’s what is important. Sometimes how we get there is not as important as what we do when we get there.