In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
From the first chapters of the Book of Genesis with the story of Creation and the Fall of mankind, we know that the source of all illness is sin, the disobedience of God.
Mainly, of course, our illnesses are not the consequence of our personal sins, but rather the consequences of unconscious sin, the sin that is all around us in the world and to which we are subject. Modern science, for example, tells us that many illnesses are the result of bacteria coming from the world and attacking a weakness in our organisms. Such a weakness may be inherited through what we now call genes. Or perhaps that weakness has developed in old age when our organisms have begun to fail as they wear out. Sometimes in such cases the use of medicine or even surgical operations can bring us relief.
On the other hand some weaknesses may be the result of overeating or an unhealthy diet, or the use of alcohol or other drugs, or a lack of physical activity. Or such a weakness may also be the result of a state of mind. For instance, it is well-known how one person gets well more quickly than another. This is the result of willpower, the feeling that we still have something to do, that there is still something to live for, we still have a purpose in life. ‘I can’t be ill now, I have no time’. It is well-known that our mental state controls our physical state and we all know of cases of hypochondria.
In today’s Gospel from Matthew Chapter 9, the cause of the illness of the man who was sick is clearly not bacteria, old age or a poor mental state, but unforgiven sins. Our Lord says to the man: ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’, and the man is healed.
It must be said that the cause of many illnesses, both physical and mental, in modern society is exactly the same as in this case – unforgiven personal sins, since unforgiven sins are extremely common. And they are unforgiven because they are unconfessed, never said at confession and therefore never asked forgiveness for.
Indeed we can consider that the sacrament of confession is like a spiritual barometer which tells us of the state of any society. Among Protestants confession does not exist, although there are Protestants who do ask forgiveness of God and of one another. In Roman Catholic societies confession has all but fallen into disuse, even though it has been given various fashionable names such as ‘the sacrament of reconciliation’. And we as Orthodox have nothing to boast of, since many Orthodox too never go to confession, or go once a year, and as a result hardly ever go to communion.
The sacrament of confession is a spiritual barometer because for confession to take place, we need humility, the humility to go before God in front of a witness and confess to God our sins. But if we do not go to confession, we must not expect the divine healing that is necessary in our lives. If we are true believers, then it is for us to go to Christ and be healed by Him through the sacraments that He has given us in His Body, His Church. May it be so!