Bent Woman

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.  (Lk 13:10-13)


Sister Mary Clare was 73 years old when I sat next to her during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament one day. She sat hunched over a well-worn Book of Hours, and I remember being struck by her appearance of calm reverence during worship. She remained bowed throughout the time of adoration, and it wasn’t until she stood up to leave that I realized that her spinal column was c-shaped and her vertebrae were fused so that her head was permanently bowed. I tried not to stare, but I must have been unsuccessful, because the nature of her malady came up at dinner as we discussed the readings of the day, which included Amos’ oracle against Israel: “they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way” (Amos 2:6-7).

“I am blessed,” explained Sister Mary Clare, “because I cannot help but see those who are trampled in the dust. My eyes are fixed upon the mission field.”

O God, bend our hearts toward those who have been cast down into the dust and discarded.  Fix our eyes upon the ground in front of our very feet, and give us courage to daily walk into that mission field.  Let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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