2012 Week 5 of Great Fast - Devotional & Scripture Readings
Devotional based on texts taken from the Scripture Readings of Fifth Sunday of Fifty days Lent – Bent Woman
Written by Rev. Dn. Philip Mathew
Throughout the Sundays of the Great Lent, the Church has held up to us for our consideration several accounts of people miraculously healed by Christ. All of them have something in common: there was an effort on the part of the sick person as well as on the part of our Lord, a cooperation of human and divine--synergy--which brought about the healing. In one case, it was the sick person himself; in another, the sick person's friends; and in yet another, the sick person's mother. In each case, we see this synergy at work.
In today's Gospel (Luke 13.10-17), however, there is no evident effort on the part of the crippled woman. She does not approach the Lord for healing, nor does she have anyone speaking up for her. At the beginning of St Luke's account, the evangelist notes that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, and there just happened to be this woman. She had a "spirit of infirmity" for the past eighteen years, and was bent over and could not raise herself up at all. Think of the sort of life this woman had. We don't know how old she was, and so we don't know when the "spirit of infirmity" entered her. She probably was going about her normal life, and then, one fine day, something suddenly changed, and her body was bent over. She could no longer walk normally. Normal chores required a lot more effort. No longer could she look around and see the trees, the mountains, the sun, the sky, the birds, the animals, the flowers, and so on. The only thing she could see without any trouble was the earth she was walking on. For eighteen years, all she saw around her was dirt. And not only did she see dirt all around, but she probably felt like dirt. She was no longer able to simply blend in with normal society, but became a spectacle in the sight of others. People would gawk, look, stare, make comments, giggle, and so on. Perhaps they would even talk about what a horrible sinner she must've been to have been taken over by a "spirit of infirmity". What could she say to defend herself? At the end of the day, she was just a hunchback. She was just dirt.
The English word "humility" is derived from the Latin word for "dirt". Humility is the recognition that we are made of dust, and unto dust we shall return, and if this is true, then there is no room for pride, for arrogance, for boasting of any sort. It is the honest acceptance of who we really are. The woman in today's Gospel was confronted with "who she really was" every day of those eighteen years, when she looked day in and day out at the dust of the earth. Perhaps that's why she's such an ordinary character. She never says or does anything to distinguish herself. She lives her life content with what God has given her and with whom God has created her to be. With regard to her health, she probably shared Job's sentiment "The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord", choosing to make the hard decision to trust God rather than surrendering to complaints and bitterness. And it was likely this unassuming, hopeful humility which attracted the healing grace of Jesus Christ, who loosed the woman from her infirmity so that she stood upright and praised God.
Humility can heal and transform us. It helps us move past the pre-conceived notions we have about what our life should be, those illusions which cripple us and prevent us from true growth. Humility helps us perceive clearly the reality of our situation so that we can begin to live properly. Only in this way can we hope to be noticed by our Lord, who humbled himself even unto death, so that he can see our lowliness and raise us up with himself by his transforming grace and power, to the glory of God.
“As much as you subtract from the body, so much will you add to the strength of the soul.” – St. Basil the Great
“Fasting is wonderful, because it tramples our sins like a dirty weed, while it cultivates and raises truth like a flower.” – St. John Chrysostom
“Do not neglect the Forty Days; it constitutes an imitation of Christ's way of life.” – St. Ignatius of Antioch
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