14th Sunday after Pentecost year C-Br Luke

Blue Mountains Franciscan Church

Homily given by Br Luke efo on 21 August 21016

at Springwood NSW

From 13th Sunday after Pentecost

14th Sunday after Pentecost year C

 800px-winchesterbiblejeremiah28cover29Fol.148. Detail of God addressing Jeremiah


Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

The image of God touching Jeremiah’s lips which is on the front cover of the pew sheet, is from what is known as the Winchester Bible. Some of the images are incomplete, but this one is not.  It is believed that the Bible  was written by one monk and it would have taken him four years to complete the work.  It is all in Latin and there are about six different illustrators and the scholars estimate that the monk would have needed the skins of 250 calves to create enough parchment for the work.  So, it’s a treasure.  There is another prophet who God touches their lips, now you have my words and you can speak but with that one he uses a burning coal, and that is Isaiah.  God touched the prophets on their lips.

The passage from Luke we just had, is not one we often remember. The woman bent over probably had scoliosis.  And I can’t help but chuckle: ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.’ ”[1]  Talk about someone who is obsessed about rule keeping.  That synagogue leader is one of them.  She’s bent over and has curvature of the spine, but in those days’ illness or a disease was either a punishment or the result of an evil spirit.  Which is why the passage says: “the woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years”[2].  They perhaps did not understand the skeleton like we do, so the condition was explained in terms of evil spirits.  Jesus also repeat the idea when he says “Satan bound for eighteen long years”.[3] I’m going to let her go.

Now don’t read too much into Jesus saying Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger”[4]  he is not comparing the woman to a donkey.  He is saying to them you do work on the Sabbath.  Even today in the Jewish ultra-orthodox parts of Jerusalem, the people will not drive their car on the Sabbath. Why because putting the car key into the ignition is work. Which is why they walk. Jesus is saying to the leader, you will untie the donkey to get it to water, so you are working.  Don’t be a hypocrite and tell these people not to come on the Sabbath day because you do it.  And if you can work to look after your animals who are bound, then I can work on the Sabbath to free this woman who is bound, because she can’t escape either.

“When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.”[5]  This obviously, this wasn’t Nazareth, because as the scripture says in Nazareth, he was amazed at their unbelief and could do no works of power there.[6]  But we often see this reaction when Jesus heals, don’t we, the crowds just erupt.  They say, isn’t this amazing – we’ve never seen this before.  And then he goes off to the next town and the same things happens.  So, what does this passage say to us?

Remember when Jesus saw the woman he called her over.  Perhaps she didn’t go there specifically to be healed?  She was there in the synagogue.  Did she come because she knew Jesus would be there and she was hoping Jesus would heal her? We don’t know, the scripture doesn’t tell us.  The passage simply says she appears.  Notice Jesus says nothing about her sins.  In other places, he says, your faith has healed you; your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.  So perhaps we can say that in the instances where people come looking for Jesus to heal, he says to them, your faith has healed you’. According to the translation of the Bible we are using, here he says “Woman, you are set free from your ailment”. [7] He is not making a comment about her faith or her sins.  And remember for the people gathered she was a sinner, her ailment was a visible sign of her sin, or the sins of her parents.  Here he is not talking about her sins.  He sees her and says ‘you are cured of your ailment’.  The passage says she stood up and praised God.  But maybe she didn’t go looking, Jesus saw and he acted.  Remember all the passage where we read that Jesus saw them and was moved with compassion.  He cried when he saw them because he had compassion for them.

This is a very important element of Jesus ministry, is that he sees them and helps them.  And that is where we come in.  we Franciscan’s are meant to be good at this.  I remember we had a meeting where the question was asked: ‘what do we do now?’ And I replied well there are some practical things we can do. And the reply came back that’s right is when you want at anything practical done give it to the Franciscans. I thought oh that’s good – we’re practical.  I was talking to another person and he told me liked Franciscan were his favourite religious order because we are so practical.  And I think Francis would be happy with this. He told us to get out there and do things. We are not to sit in the monastery – not that there is anything wrong with this. There is a need and a place for that, but that is what the Benedictines Trappists and Carthusians do really well.

If you consider the establishment of schools, hospitals they all come from that tradition of helping people.  If it wasn’t for Christian religious orders, they probably would not have happened.  We still focus our efforts on developing a welfare ministry. That’s our job. When we see someone in need we help.  Now yes, I know it is difficult, because we are only little and none of us have huge monetary reserves.  But we can explore other things that we can do to help those who are in need.  In doing this, we will honour Francs but more importantly follow the example that Jesus set for us, and calls on us to emulate.


[1] Luke 13:14

[2] Part of Luke 13:11

[3] Part of Luke 13:16

[4] Part of Luke 13:15

[5] Like 13:17

[6] Mark 6: 5-6

[7] Part of Luke 13:12

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