30th Week in Ordinary Time
“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?” [Luke 13:16]
The story in today’s Gospel is similar to 6:6-11 (Mark 3:1-6), the story of a man with a withered hand, and 14:1-6, the story of a man with dropsy. In each of these three stories, Jesus heals on the Sabbath and is opposed by religious leaders.
Jesus in the Gospel today again finds himself defending his actions and calling out the hypocritical leaders of the synagogue, who have seemingly lost the meaning of the Sabbath.
This story is not dissimilar to situations in our Church life. In today’s context, our liturgical practice can at times feel as though it is overrun with rules and regulations, with little emphasis placed on their purpose. Perhaps you have faced this personally, having been told that the way you worship and connect to God is incorrect.
We can find comfort in the fact that even Jesus himself, the Son of God, faced similar criticism. It seems remarkable that Synagogue leaders would condemn Jesus for healing the woman, a daughter of Abraham, because it is the Sabbath. It may seem equally remarkable that individuals are critiqued for worshiping in a way that positively connects them to God, bringing forth love and healing. It is clear to Jesus that the scribes and Pharisees are missing the purpose of the law and the synagogue itself.
Jesus taught us that religion should be centred on personal encounter with God, so that we may experience divine love and healing. Then the liturgy and rules of the Church, including keeping holy the Sabbath, are all signposts to assist us in getting to that relationship, through Jesus, but they are not God. As soon as we make ‘gods’ out of the gifts of God, we miss the encounter with Christ that those gifts were designed to facilitate.
As in today’s Gospel, even Jesus himself encountered hypocrites who were waiting for him to fail and placing ‘fine print’ on God’s love and healing. Indeed, these scribes and Pharisees are still among us. We must ask ourselves, what is the meaning of the Sabbath if not for healing? Further to that, what is the meaning of the rules of the Church, if not to help us enter into a relationship with God?
By Jessica Laidler
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