Glory to Jesus Christ!
My dear friends: Where do you see yourselves in eighteen years?
It’s a bit of a silly question, perhaps. More than a bit. None of us are promised eighteen more years, or even eighteen more hours. And the future? How many of us just one year ago would have ventured to imagine what the past one year has been like? We can not even scarcely know what eighteen years will bring.
And yet, for all that, we can know some things. We can know with certainty that God will be God, and God’s power will be God’s power. And even of ourselves, we can know what habits we are building within ourselves now, today, which would serve us well eighteen years in the future.
And why, specifically, eighteen years? Well, we hear in the Gospel of our Lord healing a woman who had suffered from a great infirmity, and she had been suffering at that time for eighteen years. And it’s a fairly well-known instance of healing, for our Lord healed in the synagogue, and on the Sabbath, no less. But among the many lessons we take away from this healing, let us not lose sight of the message borne silently by the woman who was healed.
Now, as I said, it’s a fairly well-known episode in the Gospel. Our Lord was preaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And there was in attendance a woman who, as the Gospel tells us, had suffered “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years: and she was bowed together, neither could she look upwards at all.” She couldn’t even lift up her head.
And our Lord, seeing her, called her to Himself, and said, “Woman, thou art delivered from thy infirmity. And He laid His hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.”
And, then, “the ruler of the synagogue (being angry that Jesus had healed on the sabbath) answering, said to the multitude: Six days there are wherein you ought to work. In them therefore come, and be healed; and not on the sabbath day.” This is what we like to call passive-aggression nowadays.
And the Lord answered, “Ye hypocrites, doth not every one of you, on the sabbath day, loose his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead them to water? And ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” And the Gospel concludes: “[W]hen He said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the things that were gloriously done by Him.”
Now, of course, we can see a great many lessons to be taken from this Gospel. And so we should. Our Lord shows all the more that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath. He confounds those who would use the law in order to burden others, to keep them infirm, and who make the keeping of the law an end in and of itself.
We see cautionary example in the leader of the synagogue, who – instead of rejoicing at a miraculous healing – was indignant that someone would be healed on the Sabbath. Certainly, we might see in his example a warning against certain tendencies which show themselves even today. Take that to heart and think it over.
But the example which we should not let pass us by – and which we so often would, not even taking notice of it – is the example of the woman who was healed.
Here was a woman who could not even lift up her head, and yet there she was on the Sabbath, going to the synagogue to give praise and to hear the scriptures proclaimed.
Here was a woman who was bent over, who could not even look heavenward with eyes, who nevertheless looked heavenward with her heart, and gave glory to God.
Though she had been suffering the spirit of infirmity for eighteen years, still for those eighteen years she had carried out her daily duties, and had kept holy the Sabbath, giving thanks to God for all the benefits which she had received, bearing even her infirmity with grace and giving glory to God.
In so doing, at the fullness of time, the Son of God Himself met her in the synagogue, and with His word and His touch healed her.
We are none of us Christ, though we are to be like Him and to follow Him. Likewise, we are none of us rulers, like the ruler of the synagogue. We have no real influence or power. Even if through modern technology, we can broadcast our ideas around the world, this doesn’t make us rulers or important.
All of us, though, do suffer from a spirit of infirmity. All of us are injured and broken in some way. Perhaps we can not even lift up our eyes. Our heads are cast down by injury or sorrow.
Let us nevertheless do our duty. Let us bear our infirmities with grace. Like the woman in today’s Gospel, let us keep holy that which is holy. Let us seek out the Lord and His word. Let us so live every day that, even if we are to live another eighteen years – or eighty years – that we do so with the same constancy and the same resolve – and the same genuine dignity – as the blessed woman healed by our Lord in the Synagogue on the Sabbath.
Doing so, we too can be assured that we also will hear His voice calling us to Him. We will feel His touch. We will be made whole.