The Three Afflictions

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

From the beginning of Genesis, my dear brothers and sisters, humanity has suffered from three afflictions: death, sin and idolatry to demons.  Death came through Adam who, in eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, became subject to death (see Genesis 2:17, 3:19); sin came through Cain who allowed it to rule over him (see Genesis 4:7); and idolatry came throughout the first chapters of Genesis but notably in the giants (Genesis 6:4) and at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9).

And we look at this and we reflect: are you, am I, afflicted by these enemies?  By death, by sin, by idolatry?  Do I accept these as a part of human life or do I reject them as aberrations, against the will of God?

And into this the Lord comes.  By his death, resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit he defeats these three enemies—death no longer has dominion, it has been trampled down by the death of Jesus Christ; no longer are we held by sin as we have been perfectly purified through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7, Hebrews 9:14); no longer are the nations separated through demonic powers since the Spirit has been poured on all flesh (Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28).

As a foretaste, as a prelude, to this Christ defeats these three enemies even before his death.  In the passage immediately before today’s reading, Christ defeats the power of demons by casting them out and sending them into the Gadarene swine (see Luke 8:26–39) and today he defeats the power of sin in the woman with the issue of blood and the power of death in Jairus’s daughter.  All three serve as a sign of the Victory of Christ which was to come, a particular instance which was generalised for all through the Cross, through the Resurrection, through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to stand against our enemies at all times: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” says the Apostle, reminding us our enemies are not human beings but the demons, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)  We battle and we fight.  We know we will die yet we never accept death—it is no good, it is against the will of God, it is temporary and will be destroyed at Christ’s appearance.  We know we may sin yet we flee from it, through confession and the Mysteries of the Church.  We know there are spiritual powers around us yet we reject their power and put our trust in the Lord.  Let us, today, renew our commitment to fight against the powers and principalities of this age, to make our stand against sin and death, and so be found worthy warriors of the Lord and inheritors of the Kingdom of God.

To him who has cast down demons, cleansed us from sin and defeated death, Christ our True God, be all glory, honour and might, together with his unoriginate Father and All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, Amen.

Brethren, I would have you know that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
— Galatians 1:11–19

At that time, there came to Jesus a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue; and falling at Jesus’ feet he besought him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As he went, the people pressed round him. And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter and those who were with him said, “Master, the multitudes surround you and press upon you!” But Jesus said, “Some one touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” While he was still speaking, a man from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well.” And when he came to the house, he permitted no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and bewailing her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once; and he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed; but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
— Luke 8:41–56