Tuesday, March 17, 2015
The bent woman as a lenten pointer to liberation
In the gospel according to St. Luke 13:10-17 the woman with an infirmity for 18 years catches Jesus’ attention in the synagogue while he is teaching there. Jesus tells her that she is set free of her ailment. She stands straight and praises God. Jesus sets right what is perceived as a promise which has been bent to the extent of breaking but still hasn’t been fulfilled. But despite Jesus doing what should have been done ages ago, the leader of the synagogue is bitter with Jesus for having cured on the Sabbath.
Did the leader want the woman to stand straight or did he not? Was his problem the Sabbath or the woman standing straight? Jesus calls this thinking hypocrisy. You got to do what you got to do! There is no special time for that. The liberation of people belonging to the lower strata of society and the problem of women being pushed away from the main stream is always set aside for an opportune moment.
This moment becomes promised liberation. Perhaps the woman was coming regularly to experience liberation. But she was denied it citing laws and regulations. It is in essence a feeling of having the cake (apple or bread) and not being able to eat it. Jesus changes this promise of liberation to actual liberation. Liberation cannot be words and promises blocked by culture, traditions and auspicious occasions. It has to be offered when someone seeks it through words, actions or even silence.
Jesus is angry at the lack of interest in the well being of the woman who has aspired to see and experience life like everyone else. When this takes place the community leader expresses his clear displeasure. Jesus exposes the leader’s actual problem though. Is it the Sabbath or is it what is done on the Sabbath that is problematic to the leader?
The ban on cow slaughter in a particular state in the country has brought in a lot of criticism. One strong criticism is that a cow has more protection in India than a woman. To make a more appropriate statement, a cow has more value than a woman! Jesus asks the community leader “Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?” 'And should not this woman be liberated?' Jesus points out a very similar point that we are facing in our age. Don’t women have the value of an animal?
Jesus’ reaction to the woman offers us a wonderful model to follow this lent. Liberation of the oppressed should be now and not later. Lent is an opportunity to say that our dietary restrictions are going to make us spiritually strong to raise our voice against the oppressions we observe in and around us. Lent is not a time to bow down but a time to allow Jesus to straighten us and liberate us. Amen.
Picture courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_healing_an_infirm_woman