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.”
I have said it before, if the Catholic Church does anything well, it is her outreach towards the sinner and her readiness to forgive. I know this for sure! I experience it myself once every two weeks on my penitential day and when I administer the Sacrament of Confession every week.
The Sacrament of Confession is the means par excellence to set the sinner free! It is the best way - the most authentic way - to experience and know God’s love and mercy for you! In this Sacrament, you will actually hear the words of forgiveness. You will know that you can share your burden with another and not be judged. You will know that there is nothing that the Lord cannot forgive, cannot heal and cannot carry out of love for you. Be not afraid!
This woman for eighteen years had been crippled by an evil spirit (maybe an evil past), that would not let go of her. She was unable to stand erect because of the burden of her sins. This is a consequence of sin. When I sin, I cannot look up, I cannot feel loved; I cannot feel. My conscience ways upon me and I am overwhelmed with grief, despair and guilt. How can I face my accusers? How can I face my friends? Who can I turn to?
Jesus saw her; he called out to her and said, “You are set free.”
“Our God is the God of salvation” (Ps 68:21a). This is what the Lord does best. His name, Jesus, is “God who saves.” He is who He claims to be. He is the Lord of life, love and salvation. When all others fail me; He never fails. When all others are quick to judge me; He never condemns. Woman, where are all your accusers? Where have they gone? Go and sin no more.
For those of us involved in the ministry of compassion, love and forgiveness, there are no “days off”. If you wish to follow the Lord then you must follow Him seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. He took time to pray. He took time to eat. He took time to rest. But when there is a soul that is in need, there is no day in which I can simply walk away or say, “You know…I’m so sorry…I cannot talk to you today because it’s my day off.” It is like a husband who has the night out with the guys. If his wife calls and needs him, he must pick himself up and leave. The same of course goes for a wife. The same is true of a father or a mother whose child is in desperate need. For all of us involved in Christ’s ministry, life and mission, there really are no days off!
Why? Because He never takes time away from me. Of course he is God, but he did this has man too. He always leads the way! He never follows.
Recently, two coaches were suspended for forcing their athletes to do things that were, let us say, a bit radical. We all know that coaches want to win, and sometimes they make it look like they want their kids to succeed out of love for them. The reality can sometimes be quite different. Too often, the coach wants to WIN more than their players.
In one case, the coach tied duct tape across each player’s mouth. Another coach forced his players, after a defeat, to play dead in a cemetery.
But wait, doesn’t the Lord also ask us to do something similar? Does He not ask us to remain silent while we are humiliated or insulted or beaten? Does He not ask us to lay down our lives for others or die like a grain of wheat? He does!!! And we don’t rebel at all because He goes first; because He did it all for me – first! If the coaches really wanted their players to be leaders, to be the best, to give their best, then they should have been the first to play dead or tape their mouth shut!
The Lord is the God we follow, who releases us from our inequities and cleanses us from all our sins. “Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.” (Ps 68:19)