Crispin Harrison CR offers a reflection on the Gospel of Luke 13:10-17
One Sabbath, Jesus was attending prayers in a synagogue. He saw a woman bent double so that she could look only at the ground. Her life must have been difficult and humiliating. She’d been like that for eighteen years.
Astonishment and joy
Jesus stopped addressing the congregation and called her over and spoke to her: ‘You are set free from your infirmity’. Then he laid his hands on her head as a sign of healing and blessing. Immediately she was made straight and stood upright, glorifying God. The synagogue erupted with cries of astonishment and shouts of joy. Everyone knew the woman and there was no doubt that she was standing up straight, as she couldn’t before.
The crowd rejoiced because of all the wonderful things Jesus was doing and they praised God the giver of healing and all good things. The evangelist wants us to understand the significance of what Jesus had done and so he introduces a note of criticism and opposition.
Imprisonment and deprivation
Luke tells us that the leader of the synagogue was indignant at the interruption of the service and rebuked Jesus saying: ‘The Sabbath is a day of rest and not for the work of healing.’ However, Jesus replied: ‘You free your animals from their stalls to water them on the Sabbath and should not this woman be freed from Satan’s bondage? She is of more value than any animal.
She is an Israelite who believes in God as did faithful Abraham.’ His words made his critics ashamed and the crowd shouted their support and approval. Jesus described the woman’s affliction as a bondage brought about by Satan.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that she was possessed by the devil but Jesus is saying that Satan is ultimately responsible for all that imprisons people and deprives them of the health God intends for his creatures.
Jesus was sent and empowered by God not just to work miracles but to free us from Satan’s bondage. The merciful, compassionate love of Jesus and his life-giving Word is strong enough to overcome all the evil Satan can do. The woman’s healing is a sign of the mission of Christ to save us and that is why her story is in the Gospel.
Triumph of mercy and love
The leader of the synagogue’s opposition to the mission of Jesus anticipated the opposition of the Jewish scribes and lawgivers, which culminated in his condemnation by the Council of the Sanhedrin and led to his death on the cross. Even in all that, Jesus triumphed through his mercy and love shown in his sacrifice for the whole world.
When he poured out his life-giving blood on Calvary, his mission to break Satan’s grip on every member of the human race was accomplished. His victory was demonstrated in his resurrection from the dead on the third day. The Church militant is inevitably caught up in the mission of Jesus to overcome the forces of evil let loose by Satan into our world. In a sense, like the woman in today’s Gospel, the world is bent, deformed, diseased and needs Christ’s healing. We can speak only briefly about this vast topic.
We have only to reflect on the stories which daily appear on our television screens and newspapers. The seemingly insoluble conflicts, the greed for power, pleasure, possessions and money, the secularism and turning away from the worship of Almighty God; all these are indicators of Satan’s work. How are we to combat all that? We reply: ‘In the power of the Lord our God, who has promised to hear our prayer.’
We must combat the works of the Devil with the mercy and compassionate love of Jesus and his redeeming sacrifice. We should unite ourselves with his prayer and self-offering, which we do in the Holy Mass. ND
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