ByziMom Considers: Healing on the Sabbath
27th Sunday After Pentecost
From a Mom’s Perspective
Luke 13:10-17 On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen 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.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
God commanded that we should keep the Sabbath holy, set apart from all the other days of the week, and reserved for God and His service. Our opinion of what this should entail has changed somewhat over the years and every home and family seems to interpret this directive in their own way. So what does a typical Sabbath look like at your house? I remember my grandmother telling me that she hated Sundays when she was a girl because very early on every Monday morning, she and her sister would have to deal with all the crusty dishes leftover from dinner the night before. When she was young, there was no washing of dishes on the Sabbath, but there was always extra scraping and scouring of filthy dried-on food from all the pots, pans, and dishes the next day to make up for it. Thankfully, today most of us don’t quite go that far, but we try to make Sundays a time for family, friends, and education in the faith and try to leave other, more worldly pursuits for weekdays. God provided us with this example when He rested on the seventh day after He performed the work of creating the Universe. Of course, He Who Does Not Sleep does not need rest, but He wanted us to know that we do, and we honor His directive.
So the leaders of the synagogue had good reason to insist that people revere the sabbath as a day of rest and service to God alone, but when I first considered the application of this theme to the vocation of motherhood, it honestly made me laugh out loud. The synagogue leaders were angry at the children of God for asking the Lord to minister to their needs outside of the appointed time. Yes?
Ok...so when the little one bellows for us during the night, I suppose we need to tell him that there are 16 hours to call mommy, and now is not the appointed time. When our daughters get a flat tire on the way home from the youth group meeting after Liturgy, they’ll just have to wait until morning for us to help her fix it. The baby comes to you with her shoe untied on Sunday afternoon...do you tie it for her? She has a fever, so do you tend to her? I suppose we do have to look for some kind of balance here. We know that to be good parents, we need to minister to all the needs of our children pretty much on demand, Sunday or not, so in light of the command to keep the Sabbath holy, do we come to the aid of our child or do we rest? The answer is simple and boils down to one thing. Love. Love does not rest. We see by Christ’s example that perfect love, as in that love that comes to us from Christ, does not reserve itself but gives what it can as soon as it is longed for. He showed that kind of love to that poor crippled woman on that Sabbath day. Simply said, love is not work.
I remember when I was still single, living by myself, and figuring out what my vocation would be, it was so easy to set aside the entire Sabbath day for worship. I don’t mean attending the Divine Services, but individual daily prayer and private devotions too. I could spend the entire day in worship, reading, and prayer without issue. Then I got married and we were blessed with five small children in the first seven years of our marriage, the youngest of whom were twins. One Saturday night, I was awakened by their cries and after nursing them, changing them, and putting them back to sleep the house was still and quiet once again. I sat down in the rocking chair and lamented to Jesus that I knew I had to get up early for Liturgy the next morning, in only a few hours. I was so very tired and spent. I missed having quality time alone with Him in prayer and asked Him when it would be possible for me to be able to pray like that again. When would I be able to spend most of the service in actual worship, in the nave with everyone else instead of alone with the babies in the vestibule? When would I actually be able to listen to the homily in its entirety again? When would I be able to pray before Liturgy and prepare for it properly again? Did He mind that I wasn’t mindful of His presence because I was so distracted by the children? Was I worshiping Him as He willed?
It was then that He graced me with the realization that when I was ministering to the needs of my little ones, whether right there in the stillness of the night, or in the vestibule during the homily, or in the ladies room wiping my toddler’s face and hands yet again, it WAS worship. I should adore His presence in the heart of my child and not worry about the rubrics and rules, but just LOVE them for His sake, care for them as HE would want me to do. By Christ’s example in this parable, I am to offer my very self to them whenever they need me, whether on the Sabbath, during the Divine Services, or at any time, as my vocation as their mother dictates.
I understood that our babies in their innocence resemble the Lord more closely than any human being at any other state of life and that when we minister to them in their profound need and vulnerability, or to anyone else for that matter, we minister to Christ. Our motherly love thereby becomes the purest form of prayer and the best way to imitate the perfect love of Christ.