A reflection by R. M. Sugrue
Imagine the Synagogue with its bustle of religious men performing their religious duties. This particular Sabbath a visiting preacher captures a large audience. Behind a grill, women, children and slaves gather to watch. One person, more outcast than the rest, slouches alone. Children stare and mothers pull them away. She bears the stigma of sin – a curse that renders her a cripple. She exists with the burden of living bent over for eighteen years, denied easy glance to sky and faces. Her wretched and painful world is that of feet, dust and mud. She must have done something terrible to merit this. She survives by begging. Her only hope is to be as religious as possible.
Anticipation mounts as the speaker mounts the rostrum. He gazes over the crowd. He is young and confident. His eyes light upon the misshapen shadow beyond the grill. “Woman,” he calls, “Come here.” The crowd is astounded and shocked. Men do not speak to women in the Synagogue and women do not enter the main portion. Despite only wanting to remain un-noticed the outcast dares obey. Feel her hating the gaze of the public; imagine her pause in panic; notice the public move back; see the disgust in the faces. She does not twist to look but she feels the disdain. An unpleasant murmur ripples the crowd and over it comes the voice of Jesus saying, ‘Come unto me.’ The woman musters all the courage she posses and limps forward. Jesus stoops and touches the untouchable one. The touch is warm, human, tender and strong. "Woman,” he says, “You are freed from your infirmity.” She straightens to his words and looks into the face of the Christ. The crowd is transfixed, and angry.
Not only has an unclean woman entered a sacred part of the synagogue, the healer is ‘working’ on the Sabbath. The young preacher dares answer his elders and betters with a ring of authority. He calls them hypocrites reminding them they tend animals on the Sabbath.
Then Jesus refers to the woman as a ‘daughter of Abraham.’ Abraham! The greatest of the Patriarchs, the founder of the Nation, the ‘great one’ prepared to follow God to the end of the world, the person of perfect faith with whom God made a holy Covenant. To be called a daughter of Abraham elevates her to undreamed of status.
Those present witnessed more than mere healing. All were confronted with the fact that this woman was their equal. Jesus further reminded the people it was not sin but Satan that bound their kinswoman. The people understood and were ashamed. And then they were able to rejoice.
(Disability Sunday in NZ – 3rd Sunday in June
UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities 3rd of December)