Luke: 13:10 – 17
Imagine being bent double and not being able to look at who you are talking to in the eyes for eighteen years. This is the situation that the woman in today’s gospel endured until Jesus noticed her. Being bent double may be a physical condition, but the fact that Jesus described her malady as caused by a spirit leads one to speculate that her paralysis may be a spiritual one. Sometimes, the weight of the past can cripple us – sorrows, resentment, nostalgia, remorse, an overwhelming attachment to things and places.
Jesus saw her and was compassionate and healed her. During the eighteen years that she endured being bent double how many people had noticed her or given her any consideration?
Do we stop and notice and help those in our society who are afflicted with infirmity, or do we just walk by? Do we stop to reflect on what cripples us in life?
The first reading challenges us to live out the Christ-life that is within us because we are persons baptised into Christ. This challenge is bold indeed as we are to be “imitators” of God. How on earth can we imitate God? Ephesians spells out an answer to that question. It means not doing some things (immorality, impurity, useless talk); and it means to act on the fundamental fact that we are so blessed and favoured by God. Paul captures that by calling us to be grateful: “but instead (of the negative things mentioned), to develop thanksgiving.”
Is it any wonder that the woman glorified God when Jesus took away her infirmity? She was a person of faith attending synagogue on the sabbath. The healing
experience of the woman brings her life back to God. It is God’s mercy and compassion that led us to conversion and healing.
We need to acknowledge what cripples us to receive healing and God’s unfathomable mercy.
Do we stop to praise and thank God when what cripples us is resolved?
The other point in the Gospel is a return to the ongoing opposition between the Pharisees and Jesus. The leader of the synagogue is forthright, laying down the law about healings on the sabbath. He addresses those gathered ignoring Jesus. But Jesus addresses the religious leaders who are so attached to rules that they cannot rejoice in the woman being healed. These legalistic arguments are shown up for what they are: hypocritical and meaningless.
Joanne McGrath is a parishioner of St Brigid’s Marrickville and a Passionist Companion.