Set free

stock-photo-2807197-good-news-travel-fastA Meditation on Luke 13:10-17 and Isaiah 58:9b-14

The Gospel Reading for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Luke 13:10-17 – shows Jesus facing more questions and opposition, this time for setting free from bondage, “a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years”.In the last meditation the opposition was rather general: By what authority was the question. Here the issue is the Sabbath.

This story appears in Luke only – not in John or the other synoptic Gospels. Since his audience was primarily Gentile, the fuss about the Sabbath would have made no sense to non-Jews. Thus, he concludes his story with the observation that Jesus’ opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing”.

Indeed, that may well have been so for Gentiles. On the other hand, the First Reading – Isaiah 58:9b-14 – was familiar to Jews, and there it says: “If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord…”

Isaiah’s text is about removing the yoke, and a continuation of last meditation’s debilitating question: By what authority? For him, not “pointing of the finger”, not “speaking of evil”, offering “your food to the hungry and satisfying the needs of the afflicted” is what it means to remove the yoke. Simply put, this is service to and on behalf of others. That is precisely what Jesus does in the Gospel – setting free one who had been in bondage for eighteen years.

The issue of contention is that he did it on the Sabbath! Nevertheless, even Isaiah clearly points out that  the Sabbath should be “a delight” as opposed to a yoke, or means of continued bondage. It is being set free from any and all encumbrances that hold one in bondage. The good things and blessings of life should be liberating not limiting and debilitating.

Think of the Church or the Faith Community. It ought to be liberating not a yoke. It ought to be a vehicle of setting free the sons and daughters of Abraham who have been in bondage for too long. It is not for “pointing fingers”, or gossip and murmurings or “speaking evil”.