The Gospel according to Luke (13:10.17)
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.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
Opening Prayer: My merciful Lord, You desire to free me from all that burdens me. You desire that I turn to You with the confidence of a child. Please do free me, dear Lord, from any way that I impose burdens upon myself by my obsessions and irrational worries.
Encountering Christ: Why would this leader of the synagogue do such a thing? Though he and many other scribes, Sadducees, Pharisees and scholars of the law struggled with envy and hypocrisy, others may sometimes react similarly to this leader of the synagogue for other reasons. One such reason is scrupulosity.
Scrupulosity is the tendency to see God and His holy will through the lens of legalism. “Legalism” is not just being faithful to the Law of God, because that is a good thing. Legalism is a misinterpretation of God’s Law by which one tends to put more emphasis upon themselves than upon God. A scrupulous person is preoccupied with themself. They tend to be far more concerned with sin than with God Himself. And though it’s vital to be concerned with sin, when fear of sinning becomes a form of obsession, then that obsession has the effect of clouding the pure will of God and leaves a person heavily burdened and unable to joyfully live out the authentic will of God.
We have had to deal with these heavy burdens from time to time. Do you worry in an irrational way about sin? Do you ever find yourself obsessing over decisions, worrying that you may make the wrong one? Do you think about yourself far more than you think about God and others? If so, you may also be carrying a similar heavy burden that our Lord wants to lift. Serving God and His holy will must become the deepest joy of our lives, not a heavy burden. If you find your Christian walk more of a burden, then turn your eyes away from yourself and look to the merciful God. Run to Him with the utmost confidence of a child, as Saint Thérèse eventually did, and allow yourself to love Him more authentically, freed of scrupulous and self-imposed burdens.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was one saint who openly shared her struggles with scrupulosity in her autobiography. Of this struggle, which she referred to as “oversensitivity,” she said, “One would have to pass through this martyrdom to understand it well, and for me to express what I experienced for a year and a half would be impossible.” However, she eventually experienced what she called a “complete conversion” by which the heavy burden of oversensitivity was lifted. Though this oversensitivity oppressed her in various ways, one way it affected her was that she feared that even some of her random thoughts were mortal sins and that she would be condemned for them.
Though the leader of the synagogue was most likely not struggling with “oversensitivity” in the same way as Saint Thérèse, he was acting with an extreme scrupulosity which led him to be harshly judgmental and condemning of our Lord for His good deed done to this crippled woman.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, May I always understand Your infinite love for me and always walk freely and joyfully in Your ways. Jesus, I trust in You.
Action of the Day: Today, I will keep a special eye on what I complain about and how often I complain, trying to see more clearly any emerging hypocrisy at work in my life.