Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy

Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

Happy Halloween

The true meaning of healing

This weekend I had an opportunity to sit under teaching by one of the top orthodox theologians of our time, the Rev. Thomas Hopko, recently retired professor of dogmatic theology at St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary, Crestwood, New York. His lectures were so dense (meaning packed with thought-provoking assertions and ideas) that I'm eager to get hold of the CDs of the conference so I can "mine" them more thoroughly. But for today I want to dig up several of the more mind-expanding nuggets and highlights of the conference.

The theme of the conference was "Christ the Healer," and early in its unfolding Fr. Thomas quipped that "whatever the topic is, I always say the same things," by which he was affirming that the truth is always the truth and that it inevitably crops up in similar, if not identical, patterns regardless of how you approach it. One of the most fascinating aspects of the lectures was the new ways in which he enabled his audiences to perceive familiar concepts. Though "healing" was the recurring motif, the surprising truth was that although Christ went about healing, and the Apostles did also, the overarching message of the New Testament is that it is in suffering, not well-being, that salvation is won. Although Paul could have boasted of having been in the presence of Christ in a transposition into the heavenly realm, he chose to boast of his sufferings for the sake of the message of the Gospel rather than anything more spectacular.

Fr. Tom, as his audiences quickly come to know him, made a connection between two "Lazaruses" mentioned in the New Testament, a connection that had never occured to me before. The first Lazarus appears in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16, in one of Jesus' parables, where Lazarus is the name of a poor beggar who asks for alms at the gate of a rich man. Both the rich man and poor Lazarus die and while they are awaiting the judgment and their final destination, it is already apparent where both are headed. The beggar Lazarus is in the bosom of Abraham where he is being comforted, and the rich man is in the depth of the pit, close to hell, where he is already tormented for having failed to keep God's commandments. The rich man pleads with "Father Abraham": "I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' [Abraham] said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

The second Lazarus we meet in the New Testament is in John's Gospel, Chapters 11 and 12. He is a follower of Jesus who, with his sisters Mary and Martha, is beloved by Jesus. But Lazarus takes ill and dies, despite the fact that members of Jesus' immediate circle had pled with Him to go to Lazarus and heal him before he died. Jesus gets to Bethany, two miles away, to find Lazarus already in his tomb, and his body already emitting a fowl odor, and though He weeps for Lazarus' death, he also says this is for the glory of God. And, saying "I am the resurrection and the Life," he raises Lazarus from the dead and he rejoins his sisters and the other disciples. There is more "plot development" here but the surprising point Fr. Tom made was that Lazarus's resurrection proved the point of Jesus' earlier parable in which another Lazarus was not sent back to the living to warn the rich man's brothers because, as Jesus said: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." And when this Lazarus was raised from the dead, the climax of the story is these words: "from that day on they plotted to take his [Jesus'] life."

We often concentrate on the miracles of Jesus as proving His Messiahship, but the main point of the Gospels is that even these did not convince any of those who were unwilling to believe. Even His own resurrection, which we often argue is the surpreme evidence of His Godhead, even that didn't convince most of those who saw Him and knew of His teaching in His own generation. It is by His suffering, by His "stripes" (the marks of the lashes He withstood on the way to the Cross) that we are healed.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

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Children: You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next 16 years telling them to sit down and shut-up.

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