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.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God." (Luke 13:10-17)
Imagine how this woman’s affliction affected her everyday life. She couldn’t look up at the sky. She needed help to reach items over her head. It was next to impossible to find a comfortable spot to sit or sleep—but standing was also painful.
Much Jewish thinking at the time made a direct correlation between illness and sin (John 9:2). God rewarded a virtuous person with good health and punished sinners with misfortune of every sort, including disease. Since this woman bore an obvious disability, she must have done something terrible to deserve it. So people probably avoided her, not only because her appearance made them uncomfortable but because they feared contamination by contact with her unholiness.
Burdened by actual and imagined guilt, this woman must have searched her heart over and over, trying to find out what she had done to deserve this burden. At the same time, she also persevered in her faith and trust in God. Why else would she have been at the synagogue?
Seeing her faith, Jesus spoke words of freedom and touched her. Suddenly she was able to stand, and her immediate reaction was to praise God! Not only had Jesus straightened her back; he freed her from guilt and isolation as well.
So many things keep us from standing up and giving glory to God. It could be a physical illness for which we subtly blame God. It could be a fractured relationship on which we’ve given up or the memory of a past sin that we doubt God will forgive. Whatever it is, after carrying such burdens for years, we can get used to having them. We hardly notice that we are compensating for our supposed disabilities, maybe by avoiding new situations or withdrawing into ourselves.
Think of your most hopeless situation. Is it too hard for Jesus? Absolutely not! Is there a sin too big for Jesus to forgive? No. Is he punishing you for some past misdeed? Of course not. So follow this woman’s lead. Go to Jesus, in the “synagogue” of your heart and of the Church. Be where he is so that he can see you, touch you, and set you free.
“Father, you have created me to live in freedom. Release me from everything that burdens my spirit, especially shame and guilt.”