Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Romans 8:12-17; Psalm 67; Luke 13:10-17
A somewhat controversial start to this one. You have been warned. In the gospel today, the Lord seems almost obnoxious for a start. He was not only impatient and imprudent but also seemed quite impious to boot. I might be using a thoroughly modern lens to view this but perhaps this is the point of view that we might need for a start. The imperfections of the Lord might help us to understand what we need to do.
He was impatient. Why heal the woman there and then? She was infirm and enfeebled for 18 year so what difference would a day make? He didn’t absolutely have to heal her on that day and it would have been easier just to follow the rules.
He was imprudent. Consider the lot of the woman after her healing. Given that her healing came under somewhat dubious circumstances (a Sabbath crime no less), would she not be shunned or shut out of the synagogue as a result?
He was impious. There are rules in any house of worship and as a leader and teachers, shouldn’t the Lord have been more respectful of the rules. After all, we don’t eat in church anytime we’re hungry do we?
We’re always taught to be prudent, pious and patient so why should the Lord be any different?
St Paul gives a hint in his letter to the Romans. We’re not children who live in fear any longer but adults in the faith, informed by the Holy Spirit who are mature and able to think for ourselves. We need to decide things for ourselves – discern, with the spirit of God as our guide. Implicit in this is that we should not follow rules slavishly and truly think about what these rules are all about and how they can affect us.
The Lord’s example in his arguments with the synagogue leader helps us understand this. He says that if we’re perfectly capable of interpreting laws in our normal lives, to give mercy even to our animals when they need them, shouldn’t we be able to show mercy when faced with real people? Being too rigid in our adherence to old laws could cause people to get hurt (or to get hurt more than is necessary) so why not respond directly to the situation. The imperfections of the Lord mentioned earlier begin to look a little less imperfect in themselves but means of responding to an imperfect world. Maturity in faith helps here.
If we’re able to think and discern based on the spirit, then our interpretation of the events of the gospel might look a little different. The impatience of the Lord looks more like urgency in aiding someone who needs help and in showing the glory of God to others. Why allow somebody to suffer one more day when they can be freed that very moment? The imprudence seems more like a willingness to act, a certain brand of courage that comes from faith in God, even in the face of opposition. And the impiety is not that at all – on the contrary its the willingness to respond to God in a way that is more honest and more merciful, very much like how the Holy Father Pope Francis encourages us to act. The imperfections lead to joy in the people around – a sure sign that that’s probably the right way to respond.
A coin has two sides and we’re able to discern which side to follow. Our faith should not lead us to greater clarity in how we’re to love and serve the Lord and not confusion as to how we should follow rules. Honesty here is key – being able to call out things that need to be called out, perhaps not in as forceful a manner as the Lord, but to dare to do so anyway. We should not adopt a wait-and-see attitude in our dealings with others and banish timidity. Dare to be merciful adults in faith, trusting in the Lord’s ability to lead us towards giving glory to God.
Where have we been called to be adults who respond to Lord with urgency, daring and discernment?