Eph 4: 32 – 5: 8 / Ps 1: 1- 4 and 6
Should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?
From our ailments God has set us free,
Likewise, let us bear others’ burden,
For women with disabilities,
Show them mercy as Christ had given.
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things He was doing. (Luke 13: 10-17)
The ruler of the synagogue only exposed his true nature – his total lack of compassion – by becoming angry that the observance of the Sabbath was violated. Because of his blind observance of the letter of the law, he failed to see the miracle of the Sabbath. In truth what bothered him was not so much our Lord’s disregard of their antiquated laws, but the power and authority that Jesus displayed, which in his mind threatened his position as the leader of his congregation. He tried to assert this by admonishing the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” And this was just the opening that Jesus needed to teach the Jews three important lessons.
First of all, the Jews needed to open their eyes to the hypocrisy of their religious leaders, who “tie up heavy burdens on their shoulders but will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen” (Mt.23:4-5). How could anyone say releasing a sick woman from the bondage of an evil spirit (by a mere laying of hand) is not permissible on a Sabbath, but the untying of one’s animal and leading it to water is allowed on that day? Are thirsty animals more important than suffering women?
Secondly, Jesus intentionally healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath to show the Jews (and us) that acts of mercy are in fact the best way to keep the Sabbath holy. The Book of Deuteronomy, upon which the law of the Sabbath is observed clearly states: “Take care to keep holy the Sabbath day as the Lord your God has commanded you… No work may be done then… Your male and female slave should rest as you do” (Deut.5:12,14b,c). On this seventh day, everyone must rest, freed not only from work, but more importantly from the yoke of sickness, suffering, and evil. Thus, wasn’t it only fitting that after 18 years of bondage, the poor woman should “be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” All works of mercy are inspired by God. The best time to heal the sick or help the poor is on the Sabbath (or Sunday). It is the day He is most honoured when we reflect His Divine Mercy.
The third and most important message that Jesus imparts in today’s Gospel is the equal role that women play in His kingdom. He called her “a daughter of Abraham” to emphasize that women as much as men are children of God and heirs of heaven. Jesus performed His healing ministry on both men and women without any distinction. He cured Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt.8:15), an official’s daughter and a woman with a hemorrhage (Mt.9:22,25). He did not turn away a Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed (Mt.15:28), and out of pity for a widow raised her dead son at Nain (Lk.7:12-15). He never condemned any of the women who came to Him in repentance, but showed them mercy and compassion. The foremost apostles of our Lord wrote about how all men must show love and respect to their women. St. Peter said, “You husbands should live with your wives in understanding, showing honor to the weaker female sex, since we are joint heirs of the gift of life.” (1 Pet.3:7) St. Paul intoned the same message: “He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his Body” (Eph.5:28-29).
Men sometimes think that just because we are the head of our household, we can treat our wives like servants. On the contrary, our Lord teaches us that we must always accord them with love, fidelity, honor and respect. After all, we came from, were born and nourished by women. They only deserve our deepest affection and highest esteem.
Father God, You created women so that all men may know the pleasure of love, the stability of family, and the comfort of home. Thank You for all mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, for without them, life in this world would have been totally dull and meaningless. Bless all the women in our lives, for they are to us Your greatest blessings. Amen.
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