Luke 13: 10 – 17
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 leader 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 your 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.
The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees (the ministers or priests of his day) could not be clearer than in this story of the healing on the sabbath of a woman bound for 18 years. It is so sad that human systems of understanding should so darken the sight of ministers that they reject what God is so clearly doing through this charismatic teacher full of love and power. To be silly in comparison, it would be like going to church during Lent and saying Allelulia every time someone receives comfort. This man-made rule of putting the “Alleluias” away during Lent is one of these human rules that is just too “cute” and gets in the way of our full response to God’s blessing in our lives. But, it does not really matter. What matters is our ability to see the light, respond to the light and share the light from wherever we are.
Jesus did not need to win his argument about Sabbath rules, what he needed was for people to reconnect directly with Abba themselves rather than through the indirect method of following a minister’s rules. It was the minister’s self-understanding of his rules and right relationship to God that was too inflexible and too highly worked to do what was originally intended, which was to free people to rest in God’s presence once a week. Following these rules too diligently became another kind of work distracting the people from resting in God’s presence. Ironic eh?
Unfortunately, if you really take on a prophet based on your own sense of authority in a human institution, you can expect to get humiliated and even end up being another of those who kills God’s prophets only to canonize them later. God save us from our religiosity, save us all from our religiosity, that we might more and more see the light and hear your saving word and finally become one with our Abba again.
Noon Day Prayers Question
What about your religious practice and tradition is blocking you from experiencing God’s love, from being free to truly follow Jesus, from being filled with the Spirit that God could break through you and touch people in your life in new and powerful ways? Why are you content with a life that has so little power, that is much more like your neighbour’s than Jesus’ and his disciples? Are you able to pray “Lord disturb me, that I might see like you see and love like you love?”
Luke 13: 18 – 21
Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
The mustard seed in this parable is symbolic since there is no mustard plant that becomes a tree. The mustard seed is the smallest of the seeds and for it to grow into a tree is an apt symbol of the potency of the Kingdom of God’s work within our hearts – something beyond ordinary human imagining or experience. Likewise, the leavening of a huge quantity of flour overnight from a small amount of yeast.
Jesus has chosen two examples, one from man’s work, the other from woman’s work, to show the potency of the kingdom’s effects on our lives and communities. What comes to mind for me is a line in our Eucharistic liturgy “the goodness planted more deeply in us than anything that is wrong.” Similarly a teacher of mine led a meditation in which we moved from our external environment to the body, to the core of our being which was “peace and joy.” I would add love to fulfill the trinity of what is planted more deeply in us than our wiring (the habits of the heart we acquired from our family context).
The action of God’s spirit within us (the Kingdom of God) is to release our true nature from deep within so that it may corrupt, decay and transform us back to what we were created to be – creatures filled with and overflowing with love, peace and joy. Come Holy Spirit and work your yeast deep into our hearts, minds and souls that we might be liberated from our consciously and unconsciously constructed chains into the freedom and light you designed us to experience. Come Holy Spirit.