On Faith: A Good Day for Liberation
By Adlai Amor
Our Gospel lesson (Luke 13:10-17) tells of Jesus, who while teaching in a synagogue during Sabbath, heals a woman who has been suffering from an unknown affliction for 18 years. Upon healing her, the leader of the synagogue accuses Jesus of not observing Sabbath. But Jesus replies that if observant Jews can untie their oxen and give them water during Sabbath, why can't a woman who has been sick for 18 years be healed?
Often this passage is used for discussions on keeping the Sabbath holy. But I would like to focus on Jesus gracing this unnamed woman by liberating her from her affliction.
While this happened centuries ago, I have seen parallel stories today – stories of how women and men liberate themselves from affliction, from unjust systems, from hunger, and from oppression.
I especially recall my cousin Choot, currently living in Bakersfield, Calif. She is a wonderful, crazy cousin and we have traveled together. Like many families, her immediate family is very dysfunctional – with brother and sisters fighting each other. She married an American veterinarian while in the Philippines. They move to the Unites States and they have a son. Then, her husband commits suicide. Coot falls into deep depression but yet still manages to take care of her ill mother. Her mother dies and Coot is thrown out of her apartment by her siblings. She spent days as a homeless person in Bakersfield.
Choot would have stayed homeless where it not for a Filipino who gave her shelter, and a Mennonite pastor and his church who eventually helped to treat her. She and another church member fell in love, but he died after a few years. Choot’s life would make for a great telenovela.
She often tells me that without the help of fellow Christians she would never have been liberated from her mental illness, from the oppressive family relationships that imprisoned her for decades. Today, she actively advocates for better mental health in the Asian-American community. She walks tall, proclaiming God's grace and, like the unknown woman in Luke, publicly praising God for freeing her from bondage and healing her of her infirmities.
Indeed, God's liberating grace is available to anyone at any time. Indeed, any day is a good day for liberation – even during Sabbath.
Choot would have enjoyed our Founders Day celebrations if she were here today. No doubt she would have plunged in and helped in the medical missions and feeding programs that are part of our celebration. I am especially heartened by the feeding programs that were started for children, considering that nearly 20 percent of Filipino households go to bed hungry each day.
I see the hope in the eyes of the children who benefit from these new programs. But I worry for them since they only address the symptoms and not the underlying causes of why hunger has grown and why it persists today in the Philippines.
For several days, I have driven by a family – father, mother, child – who huddle on the sidewalk while eating their meager lunch of rice and salt. I am ashamed that I have been too busy to stop and talk to them or find out how I can help them. But my shame eggs me on with renewed commitment to help those whom Jesus calls the least of us.
As we leave for our respective homes, to our respective vocations, let us go with the faith that God's grace is all-powerful, liberating us from our afflictions, from the bonds of oppression, and empowering us to root out the systems that support this oppression –not just on Sabbath or on Founders Day, but every day.
From a sermon given during the sunrise service marking the 112th Founders Day of Silliman University, Philippines, Aug. 28, 2013.
Adlai Amor is Bread’s director of communications and an alumnus of Silliman University in the Philippines.