Back to back – Monday, 30th week in ordinary time – Luke 13:10-17

Back to back – Monday, 30th week in ordinary time – Lk 13:10-17

Jesus, we are told, is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath; however we are not told what He teaches. By doing this St Luke wants us to focus on the matter of importance at hand. So he glides over many details to settle on the woman in the narrative and then places a microscope over her.

She is a woman and this should not be taken for granted simply because we live in this century. She has a spirit in her, quite obviously an evil one. She is a cripple for eighteen years, bent over and unable to stand up straight. That’s a lot of detail considering how sketchy the Bible can be! Interestingly we are not told her name.  

Just for a moment read this text bent over (like the woman) and in a flash your every action will be tedious challenge. Yet the woman has no complaint about her disability, in fact she did not even ask for a healing. It seems that she has accepted her suffering.  Nothing, they say, misses the Lord’s eye; He noticed her, He noticed her fidelity to synagogue worship and that despite her disability she was there.

It is the Lord who seeks to set her free from her ailment and she accepting His gracious healing touch stood up in faith. If there was any doubt that still lingers in the reader’s mind about the woman’s fidelity to God it should be put to rest by the Biblical evidence that is given to us. Her first reaction to her healing was “to praise God.”

And now the narrative takes a turn straight down hate alley led by leader of the synagogue who interestingly directs his rage at the woman and not at Jesus. Perhaps she was an easier target to vent his Sabbath frustration.  Technically there was no miracle performed, just the laying of hands and eight spoken words. How can eight words desecrate the law of the Sabbath when a Jew was permitted to do much more, such as untying an ox or donkey and leading it from the manger to its watering hole?

The anger of the leader of the synagogue was misplaced for he had not understood the purpose of the Sabbath which did not forbid works of compassion but encouraged it. They Jews had mastered the law of the Sabbath but had failed to understand it. What is worse is that this religious leader could not endure a move of a hand and eight words all of which lasted a minute while this woman bore her infirmity of eighteen years.

 While Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke, is most certainly Gentile friendly it would be incorrect to conclude that he is anti-Jewish law and the Torah. Luke presents Jesus as He is, the Messiah who has come for all and not for some with narrow domestic religious agendas. The Jewishness of Jesus is seen in His great love for the nameless woman who is honoured now with a title, “daughter of Abraham”.  Nothing could be more Jewish than this. But this title was also shared by Zacchaeus, who on repenting is honoured with the title “Son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9)

Just before this pericope Jesus declared his discontent with the fig tree that produced no fruit but on encountering the woman He recognised in her a fruitful and faithful daughter of Abraham. It is this faith that is rewarded. Oh by the way, Jesus straightened two backs that day; the back of the woman bent over and the spineless back of the leader of the synagogue. The miracles were back to back.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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