A number of years ago I was traveling for a conference to New York City and I was struck by a case of a pinched nerve in my back. The doctor said that it was a flare up of sciatica, all that I knew was that it hurt like all get out and I was totally incapacitated. There was nothing that I could do, I could not lie down, I could not stand up, I could not sit. There was not one single position that I could find that would make the pain go away. I call the people that I was attending the conference with and was told that there was a hospital not very far away. They said that it had an emergency room and I should give it a try.
Somehow I made it to the hotel lobby, had the bell man hail me a cab and I made it into the back seat. After I was properly situated, having only screamed out in pain three times, I gave the cabbie the name of the hospital and we screeched out into traffic, across three busy lanes, to an immediate stop. The hospital was quite literally across the street, we had travelled 40 feet.
All the better, I paid the fare, who knows what that trip cost, made it out of the cab and into the emergency room and up to the admitting counter. The doctors gave me the appropriate looks of sympathy and concern and told me that I had a pinched nerve ….. I could have told them that I had a pinched nerve …. And they told me to walk over to the hospital pharmacy to get come Tylenol …. I could have prescribed Tylenol …. And suggested that I get some rest …. I could have suggested all of that, and my back was no better.
After a night of fitful rest, I decided to leave the conference and head back home. You can imagine what that looked like. All that I remember was walking from gate 23 to gate 72 in terminal B at Denver International Airport using my roller board suitcase as a walker. It was probably quite the sight to see, I am basically draped over the handle of my suitcase shuffling along the moving walkway head down “completely incapable of standing erect”.
There were only two things on my mind at that time, first to find some way to make the pain stop and second was to get home. The end to the pain was obvious, I could not stand up, I could not walk properly, I could not turn or see properly. The desire to get home was because once I got home there would be someone to take care of me. Someone to sympathize with my plight, someone to comfort me and tell me that it would be alright. That was almost more important than the pain relief, just someone to love me.
This story came to mind as I read today’s gospel. My pain and suffering lasted a total of 5 days, the woman in the gospel had been doubled over in pain and anguish for 18 years. Boy did that make me feel like a baby for having taken the cab just to cross the street!
Imagine being bent over, in pain, for 18 years? No relief, no comfort, “completely incapable of standing erect”. And all that it took was Jesus walking over, laying his hand on her, and saying “you are free of your infirmity”. Done, no x-rays, no Tylenol, no two weeks of bed rest, just “you are free from your infirmity”. Boy, could I have used that.
The more interesting part of the Gospel story was not the curing of this woman’s infirmity it was the reaction of the “leader of the synagogue.” I mean, this woman had been coming around for 18 years, Jesus cures her with a touch and his only reaction was that it was done on the sabbath. Let me get this straight, he just witnessed a miracle and the first thing that comes to mind is that Jesus should have waited until the next day?
Remember the discourse in Matthew 25, at the end of time when the lord ascends to his thrown and separates the sheep from the goats? The ones of the right ask, “when did we see you hungry, … or thirsty …., or naked?” We know His response, and it was not “on Thursdays but never on Saturdays”.
While there is an obvious message about hypocrisy and following the letter of the law while forgetting the spirit of the law. The question for me is how could this woman be hunched over for 18 years without someone taking her in. When I got home from the conference my family immediately started buzzing all about me. None of them had a cure but they were all going to make sure that I knew that I was loved.
In the first reading it talks about our spirit of adoption “through which we cry, ”Abba, Father?” We are all “children of God” we are all responsible for our adoptive brothers and sisters. Where had the brothers and sisters of this afflicted woman been for the past 18 years? They can’t all have been waiting for the right day after the right sabbath.
Jesus admonishes his detractor by calling out his hypocrisy but perhaps he should have used a little bit of good old “Catholic Guilt”. Perhaps a “come on guy, how about a little bit of brotherly love here”.
As usual there are a couple of messages here in today’s readings, but I want to just to take notice of one in particular. As a family they all descended on me with my pinched nerve to take care of me. (to be honest, I am not sure how a hot cup of soup is supposed to help a pinched nerve but they were trying). As the adoptive family of God we should be looking for ways to help those around us in need, those hungry, or thirsty or lonely. After all; “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are all children of god.
Lk 13: 10-17
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath
day from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
October 25, 2021