Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, August 21, 2016:

First Reading: Isaiah 58:9b-14

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm: Psalm 103:1-8

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 71:1-6

Second Reading: Hebrews 12:18-29

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

This week's Gospel, and others like it, is often used to show the rigidity of the religious officials of Christ's time. And indeed, the Pharisees and other temple officials were extreme in their adherence to the law.   But they have a point--couldn't Jesus wait one more day to heal the woman?

I feel immense sympathy for the woman who is so afflicted that she cannot straighten her back. For eighteen years, she has suffered. It's the rare person who doesn't at least have a glimpse of what that must feel like. Our burdens can weigh us down so much that we can't look up from the floor.

Yet in our busy times, I also find myself feeling an odd sympathy with the leader of the synagogue, who says, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days to be healed and not on the sabbath day." The leader of that synagogue two thousand years ago couldn't have imagined the times we live in, our own age when it seems impossible to get away from work, where we're expected to be on call twenty-four hours a day.

Of course, it's important to remember that the religious leaders are not acutely concerned about the "on-call" nature of life.  They are not scolding Jesus because they've tried to create a retreat from hectic life that he's now disrupting.  They scold Jesus because there are rules that he refuses to follow.

To be fair, the religious leaders thought that strict observance of the rules of the purity codes would lead to the salvation of the Jews. Viewed in that light, their horror at the miracles of Jesus makes a certain amount of sense. The future of the chosen people is at stake.

Over and over again, Jesus reminds us that following the rules will not save us.  Jesus makes it clear that any day is a good day to unloose people from the issues that bind them. Again and again, he tells us that we are to stay alert for opportunities to minister to each other.

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