Stand up Straight and Look with Hope
When we remain in such a bowed down position, we notice only part of what is happening around us. …We as people of faith can see as our mission: to help people to stand up straight again.
Sometimes we find it difficult to link a Gospel story to our everyday lives. We don’t immediately see the connection, but upon reflection and putting ourselves and our situations into the story, the story becomes alive and we see the meaning.
One such story, for me, is “The Cure of the Infirm Woman”. In Luke 13 we read: “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for 18 years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”
An increasing number of people in this world, and in this country and in our own towns and cities, are bowed down and made infirm by many events in their lives. We ourselves are sometimes bowed down by the pressures we are under at home, at work or in our relationships.
And I am sure you have experienced how painful it is to straighten your back after having had it in a bent position for some time. It would often be easier to remain in this uncomfortable, unnatural position.
But we know that for our long term well-being we have to accept the brief effort and discomfort involved in straightening up again.
When we remain in such a bowed down position, we notice only part of what is happening around us. We can see only what is directly in front of us, and our movements are also limited. We lose a lot of our capabilities and possibilities to do anything. Being in a bowed down position really limits us!
Poverty, unemployment, crime, disease, and a lack of education are circumstances which weigh down so many people, especially young people today. These circumstances are very oppressive.
Many simply do not have the strength left to stand up and straighten up again. They are not able to look with hope to the future and search for opportunities and more meaning in their lives.
This is what we, as people of faith, can see as our mission: to teach, assist and encourage people to stand up straight again. To invite people, especially young people, to lift up their heads and look to the future.
We know that often it is not easy for people who have lived under oppression for a long time to straighten up. People who are under pressure often have no resources left to enable them to reconsider their social and political situations. They often have no strength left to look for alternatives.
We can sometimes bear it if we are under pressure for only a limited time. But if the situation you are in is dominated completely by oppression, without the benefit of hope, then you lose the strength you need to defend yourself against the oppression—or even to imagine another, upright life.
The oppression then overwhelms us and has its grasp on us. And often enough we simply just give in to it, rather than to stand up only to be pushed down again.
Our duty as Christians is to be open to people and their situations, and through our actions help them to find new perspectives and new hope in their lives, so that they have a new life.
When people discover what is within them, when they stand up and demand that they, as creatures of God, are entitled to special dignity, and when they recognise that it is their duty to participate in the Church and the world, then the Kingdom of God can continue to grow.
Jesus’ actions towards the infirm woman released her from her infirmity in order for her to stand up straight again. Jesus acts as if he wants to say to the woman: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”.