- Fr. Athanasius Oweis
A Resilient Woman!
10th SUNDAY OF LUKE - Healing on the Sabbath
Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
At that time, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity." And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day." Then the Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
The Gospel this morning shows us a woman who St. Luke describes as having a “Spirit of infirmity”. St. Luke in this description describes how the people saw her. This woman was always bent down. Can you please imagine that if you were to go to the coffee hour after the service with your back bent down how hard would it be. Now imagine this woman lived much of her life like this. She had no reason to leave home. It was humiliating for her as she will be the target of negative attention, and pity of the people. She could have stayed home. But she didn’t, she came to the synagogue. The synagogue is the local place of worship. This is were “Reader Services” took place. That is, not even a priest was there, it was a communal gathering to read the scriptures and give praises to God. But she still came to worship God, even after eighteen years of suffering. Anybody else would have said after the first year: God is not listening to me, He is not answering my prayers, He does not care about me, so I will not care about him. Isn’t that what most people do. This woman however, was praising God, month after month, year after year, decade and coming to the close of the second decade, with no answer to her prayer in sight. But she was still diligent. This woman seemed to the people that she had a spirit of infirmity. However, her reality showed that she had a spirit of strength and resilience and love to God that would put most of us to shame!
God saw her, and her resilience worked, against nature, against common sense, and he healed her. The burden on her back was lifted, and as soon as she was raised, she glorified God! Her diligent prayer and praise made the walls of her bodily infirmity shatter to the ground.
This reminds us of the story in Joshua 6, when the people of Israel went around the great walls of Jericho for a week. These walls were so high that no other nation were able to conquer them. These walls were undestroyable. But the people of Israel circled around these walls while giving praises to God that he gave them the city. This didn’t make any sense to the people from outside. But to the believer, there is a much higher perspective than the earthly perspective. There is the hand of the Divine that conquers all the enemies.
We read in Joshua 6
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat.”
And this is exactly what happened. Now if we return to ourselves and see how many spirits of infirmities that we have, how many sins and weaknesses that we keep returning into even after much diligent prayer, sometimes for years, I am here to tell you brothers and sisters. Keep praying, because God is using these infirmities to strengthen you. You think that you are week, and you are indeed, but as you keep getting closer to God with prayer, you are getting much strength from above. As Saint Paul said in his second epistle to the Corinthians chapter 12 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Now you might ask, why did God allow this woman to suffer for eighteen years: The answer is clear from the Gospel: When the leader of the synagogue was indignant for her healing, anyone in her place would’ve reproached him saying: Have you no heart? Have you no mercy? Can’t you feel what I am feeling? But she did not. She kept silent. She had the fruits of the Holy Spirit: Patience, peace and meekness. It was the Lord who answered him, as he promised in Exodus 14:14: The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” It was the Lord Christ who rebuked him. She was in the peace of the Lord. She had Christ all by her side. She experienced her story of the Resurrection after her cross literally bent her back for so long. What a beautiful turn of events for her. As God showed her that He her prayers have been answered in a way that no one saw coming.
May the Lord our God give us this woman’s patience and resilience to overcome all the struggles in our lives while being faithful to Him. Amen