Memory of the Poor

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Memorial of the historic Meeting in Assisi (1986), when John Paul II invited representatives of all Christian confessions and the great world religions to pray for peace

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 13, 10-17

One Sabbath day he was teaching in one of the synagogues,

and there before him was a woman who for eighteen years had been possessed by a spirit that crippled her; she was bent double and quite unable to stand upright.

When Jesus saw her he called her over and said, 'Woman, you are freed from your disability,'

and he laid his hands on her. And at once she straightened up, and she glorified God.

But the president of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, and he addressed all those present saying, 'There are six days when work is to be done. Come and be healed on one of those days and not on the Sabbath.'

But the Lord answered him and said, 'Hypocrites! Is there one of you who does not untie his ox or his donkey from the manger on the Sabbath and take it out for watering?

And this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years -- was it not right to untie this bond on the Sabbath day?'

When he said this, all his adversaries were covered with confusion, and all the people were overjoyed at all the wonders he worked.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel presents Jesus teaching, as is his custom, in a synagogue. Among those present is a woman with a severe form of arthritis that bent her over herself. She had lived 18 years in this very painful condition. She was so deformed that she could not look people in the face. And in turn, no one lowered themselves to look her in the face. Obviously this was not just an issue of external behaviour. She was forced to live alone and her pain by herself. The hardness of others had conditioned her to resign herself to her fate. How often does the indifference of others make us resigned to our own sad condition! And how many women like her, are enslaved to oppression and violence! This woman just stood in front of Jesus. She could neither lift up her gaze nor dare to ask for help, as other women had done before. She just stood there; she came to listen to this good and gentle prophet. When he sees her, Jesus is moved and calls out to her to draw closer. Without many words, Jesus says to her, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” Perhaps we can imagine Jesus bending down towards her and looking her in the eye, showing everyone his wholehearted compassion and telling her that he is giving her back her dignity. Through this simple scene of Jesus bending over this woman, we can understand what the attitude of believers should be towards the weak and the sick and how they should look at them. Yet there is another hidden teaching, that is, the strength of words heals. Believers in Jesus have received the same strength that Jesus had as a gift: heartfelt and compassionate words like those of Jesus are effective; they lift people out of self-resignation just as happened to this woman. However, those who saw what happened did not let their hearts be touched. The leader of the synagogue even criticized the healing. If one’s heart is full of oneself and of one’s own convictions, no miracle will ever scratch away its callousness. Jesus answered the synagogue leader’s accusations with a description of the kind of mercy that he came to bring to the earth. If the Pharisees, who had let their hearts be hardened were scandalized, the people around them actually rejoiced, “the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.” Blessed are the disciples who let themselves be drawn into the mystery of the Lord’s mercy, they will rejoice just as the crowds did then.