Monday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

Christians Martyrs and the Lions

Remember Jesus’ story about the two men who went up to the temple area to pray, the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax-collector? “The tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven…”

In today’s gospel, at the synagogue where Jesus is teaching, there is a hunched-over woman who has not raised her eyes to heaven for a very long time. Jesus calls her, lays His hands on her, and at once, she stands erect, for the first time eighteen years. I have to imagine that her very first act was to raise her eyes and hands up to heaven, to speak praises and to glorify God. Imagine how she must have felt to be deprived of such worship for so long, and then, how she must have felt for it to be so suddenly and wonderfully restored to her.

Seeing this, the authorities, the Pharisees, object that Jesus should not do healings during the Sabbath rest. But Jesus rebukes them, to their great humiliation. Who are they to say that this woman should not be free to worship God this day? Her freedom to worship comes from God Himself.

We, this morning, are free to gather here, free to raise our eyes up to heaven and offer worship. We are free from fears that authorities or angry crowds will storm through those doors and drag us off to our imprisonment or death. In the past, not all Christians have been so privileged. Still today, around the world, not all Christians are so privileged.

Let us celebrate this Mass, and every Mass, with a deeper reverence and gratitude, for the freedom we have to raise our eyes to heaven and to offer our worship to God. Let us pray for persecuted Christians around the world and celebrate this Mass, and every Mass, as if it were our first, our last and our only.

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