October 29, 2018
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University's Journalism Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 479

Ephesians 4:32–5:8
Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
Luke 13:10-17

Praying Ordinary Time

“A woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was ben over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”

Recently local TV showed heartbreaking pictures of city inspectors removing several hundred bewildered Karen [Burma] refugees from their apartments after they found a large number of safety and sanitation violations including bed bugs. The families lost many of their limited possessions including essentials like sheets and blankets.  

The Foundation for the Omaha Public Schools immediately appealed for donations to help the families, most of whom had children in the public schools. Because Omahans saw the plight of these families, contributions quickly exceeded the goal. 

I thought about this as I meditated on today’s Gospel.  The phrase “when Jesus saw her” struck me as THE critical action he took, even more than healing the woman or confronting his critics. Try to place yourself in the synagogue as Jesus was preaching that day.  

The room was most likely crowded. The “bent over” woman who could not stand erect probably was shoved into a corner, maybe even on the floor For years people had paid no attention to her plight. Why should this day have been any different?

To SEE her, Jesus would have had to look carefully at everyone in the congregation, hunting for the person who most needed his help.

The woman’s life changed only when Jesus SAW her and acted with the compassion that St. Paul urges on us in today’s reading from Ephesians. Had Jesus passed over her, she would have left just as she came.

By the act of SEEING, Jesus teaches us that compassion begins with noticing the plight of people in need, instead of blocking out unpleasant sights and images. Until we notice suffering, we can’t respond to it.  But even when we notice suffering, we might feel helpless to do anything about it. We’re not miracle workers like Jesus.

What can we do for the millions of victims or wars or hurricanes or tsunamis? Our small donations to relief agencies won’t help much but at least they are a response.

If we’re overwhelmed by distant tragedies, we can all find plenty of needs in our communities – maybe visit someone you know in a nursing home or volunteer at a homeless shelter. The opportunities to think globally and act locally are endless.

This must be what St. Paul means when he admonishes us to “Live as children of light.” May all of us try to live in such light!  

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