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Healing and Hypocrisy
Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
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.
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, in today’s psalm you remind me that you are a God who bears our burdens… who is our salvation. That’s why I come to you today in prayer. You know my burdens. You know how I long to experience the spiritual freedom that comes from your healing grace. All my trust is in you, my God; show me that path of salvation.
- The Harshness of Hypocrisy: Once again Jesus came face to face with the sin that seems to stir his anger the most: hypocrisy, putting on the appearance of having virtues that one in fact does not have. The synagogue leader was perfectly happy indirectly excoriating Jesus for healing (considered a form of work forbidden by the Sabbath laws) on the Sabbath, while at the same time contentedly caring for his livestock on the Sabbath. This shows hypocrisy because the virtue behind keeping the Sabbath is faith in an all-powerful and loving God (thus we can take one day a week for rest without fearing that our lives and livelihoods will unravel), not legalistic perfectionism. The synagogue leader claimed to know and love God, as evidenced by his minute observance of Sabbath laws, but he couldn’t see how Jesus healing this oppressed, crippled woman was a magnificent manifestation of God’s power and love, deserving of praise and rejoicing. Yet, the many other worshippers did see it, and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him. How often we fall into the same deadly harshness of hypocrisy! We are so focused on perfectionism, or the appearance of perfectionism, that we blind ourselves to the wonders the Lord is working all around us! For a clue to our own unconscious hypocrisy, all we need to do is reflect prayerfully on all the things we tend to complain about. What do those complaints tell us about ourselves? Are they healthy and balanced, or are they a bit too harsh, a bit too strident, a bit too turbulent, revealing our own attachments and petty self-righteousness?
- King of Kings: The most obvious lesson in this Gospel passage may slip by unnoticed if we’re not careful. Jesus points out that this woman has been suffering from a debilitating physical ailment for eighteen years. He also points out that the origin of this ailment was demonic. We don’t get any more details, except to see that Jesus was able to completely cure her with a word and a touch. Jesus is the Lord of life and history. His Kingdom is the definitive, everlasting Kingdom. The powers of evil will not prevail over Christ and his Kingdom: …I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). This power of Christ, and his solemn promise, is the source of our hope. And our hope is the source of our spiritual energy as well as our joy. Whenever we feel that energy or that joy wane, we can be sure we have lost sight of the power of Christ and his promise. To keep up our hope and our spiritual energy, we need only to keep gazing at Christ and all his loving omnipotence.
- The Unhealed: Many people are not healed of their maladies in this life. Many people suffer physical or psychological ailments for more than eighteen years, despite many prayers and sacrifices offered to the Lord. Why is this? Each case is unique because each person is unique. But one thing we know for sure: God hears all our prayers. If he doesn’t answer a petition the way we wanted, we can rest assured that his way of answering will be better. In other words, suffering is not in itself contrary to growth in holiness, to growth in faith and hope and love. Ever since Jesus himself redeemed us through the immense suffering of his Passion, this unavoidable reality has become one of God’s favorite channels of grace. St. Paul puts this beautifully in today’s first reading. He points out that we are God’s children, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17). Whatever God permits in our lives, for as long as he permits, can be woven into the tapestry of his redemption and our salvation, fitting us for the glories of heaven and the joys of deeper communion with God.
Conversing with Christ: I believe in your goodness and your wisdom, Lord. And I want to stay humble enough to always see that goodness and wisdom at work in my life and in the world around me. Please save me from the harshness of hypocrisy. Please enlighten me so that my own sufferings and challenges never become an obstacle to growth in grace. I hope in you, Lord; help me to hope more firmly.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will keep a special eye on what I complain about and how often I complain, trying to see more clearly any incipient hypocrisy at work in my life.
For Further Reflection: Watch or read Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit, a retreat guide on the first beatitude.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.