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Luke 13:10-17

The Word of God

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, "Woman, you are set free from your ailment." When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?" When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Luke 13:10-17
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • This poor woman has been bent double for 18 years. It may be a physical condition. But the fact that Jesus described her malady as caused by a demon 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. Like Lot’s wife, we can be frozen in time and place.
    • Lord, when we are overwhelmed, let us remember that your yoke is easy and your burden is light.
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    • This healing story sums up, in a way, the whole of Jesus' message. Jesus wants us to have life in its fullness, and sets out to free us from everything that holds us captive. This means sickness, but also human attitude and judgements which imprison or constrict us.
    • Here, it is the distorted religiosity of the synagogue leaders, who insist that even healing needs to be regulated according to Sabbath law. Jesus attacks the absurdity of their arguments, and puts them to shame.
    • For Jesus mercy and compassion are paramount. I ask for a heart that is like the heart of Jesus, always compassionate and ready to defend the poor and suffering.
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    • Notice the joy of the woman in the gospel who for the first time in eighteen years could stand up straight. As a person of faith she praised God who had healed her and given her freedom again.
    • The other point in the gospel is a return to the ongoing opposition between the Pharisees and Jesus. Again the meaningless, legalistic arguments of the Pharisees are shown up for what they are: hypocritical and meaningless.
    • I could give some reflection to the questions: can I care and heal through the listening skills that I offer to others? And, am I also prone to the tendency of being hypocritical in some of my ways of living?
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    • For Jesus mercy and compassion are paramount, trumping all other considerations. This is certainly a very challenging position. I imagine myself present in the synagogue, and observe my spontaneous reaction during the argument between Jesus and the head of the synagogue: I ask for a heart that is like the heart of Jesus, always compassionate and ready to defend the poor and suffering.
    • I wonder at how easily religion can become a source of a hard heart rather than a Christ-like mercy. I ask for light to be aware of my prejudices and of the rationalisations that justify them.
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    • Do I notice how easy it is to give a helping hand when it suits and find reasons to do otherwise when it doesn’t? It’s good to rise above ourselves in answer to someone else’s need.
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    • Think of the perspective this woman had: never able to look anyone in the eye, unable to take her place among any ordinary crowd. She was likely to have been looked down on or overlooked, denied her dignity as a person. Jesus wants to free me of any improper lmpediments, ligatures or restrictions. He does not ask me what I can bear, what I am used to or what I can settle for. He wants to restore me to my proper stature and to let me see as he sees.
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    • This woman’s appearance makes a statement in itself. She was crippled and bent over. This condition robbed her of her dignity and her rightful place in the community: she was ‘unable to stand up straight’ and to face the world. Once again, Jesus’ intervention made all the difference for her. Immediately she stood up straight and began a whole new way of being and living. As a person of faith she praised God who had given her freedom again.
    • The synagogue leader asserts that the Sabbath is not an appropriate time for God to manifest his compassion and mercy. Jesus, on the other hand, claims that God’s actions cannot be dictated to or restricted by humans. God’s mercy and healing know no limits of time or place, if we but turn to God in a spirit of trust.
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    • The Pharisees seemed always to look outwards and found fault; Jesus looked inwards and found possibility. I pray that I may be able to look on the world outside and on my own interior life as Jesus did - recognising where God’s Spirit is calling me to life.
    • I acknowledge my need of freedom and place myself before God. I ask for the healing I need.
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    • Two things move me in this story: the joy of the woman who for the first time in eighteen years could stand up straight; and the confrontation with the leader of the synagogue who loved systems (the law said that healing was work, so was forbidden on the Sabbath) more than people.
    • Straighten me up, Lord. Unshackle my heart from crippling attachments.