Free to live

Pentecost 13

Luke 13:10-17

Marian Free

In the name of God who sets us free to live. Amen.

In the novel, The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud, the Father of one of the characters says: “It is not your position, but your disposition that determines your life.” What he means is, that it is not what life throws at you, but how you respond to your circumstances that makes all the difference. In other words, it is our attitude that makes us better, not bitter. We can’t choose our lives, but we can choose what we make of them. Different people react differently to trauma, grief or incapacity. Some are weighed down by anger, depression and resentment and others are somehow able to rise above their circumstances and not only remain positive, but are able to take lessons from the negative event and to grow from it. It is understandable that people for whom life has been a constant struggle should feel despondent and constrained. Those whose life’s experiences have prevented them  from achieving their full potential sometimes think that they have been short changed, that if only their life had taken a different turn they could have achieved so much more. This, as I have said, is a reasonable reaction, especially if illness, accident or disaster has taken their life in a direction other than they one that they had planned. However, what can happen to such people is that their very negativity exaggerates their situation. Instead of looking at what they can do, they focus on what they can’t do. Instead of looking forward to “what could be”, they spend their time dreaming of what “might have been”. They seem to get stuck, unable to move out of their despair and frustration to make the best of their circumstances however bad they may seem to be. On the other hand their are those whose attitude is just the opposite. In the face of disaster, trauma or adversity, such people exert extraordinary will or simply rely on a positive attitude to surmount their circumstances and to wring out a new, if different, future for themselves. Rather than focusing on the life they might have had, they find a way to make the best of the life they do have. Sometimes, as a result of their struggle, they achieve more, are more creative, more innovative, more driven, than if they had never had to face adversity. The woman in today’s gospel has been bound for eighteen years. When Jesus tells her that she is free from her ailment, he opens up new, unthought of possibilities for life. Healed of her deformity, the woman can now stand up straight. Her world view is no longer confined to the ground beneath her feet. She can once again take in the faces of her family and friends, see the sky, the birds and the trees. Her life is no longer limited by the way that people view her. New vistas of possibility open up, new ways to share in the life of the community around her. She can hold her head up high in her community – both literally and figuratively. It is Jesus’ desire to set us all free – from all the limits that we allow to define and confine us. Jesus challenges us to let go of any events and hurts from the past that we may have allowed to restrict us and sets us free – free to live, free to achieve our full potential, free to make a contribution to the world


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