August 5 – “bent double and quite unable to stand upright” Luke 13

Wednesday August 5  “right behind the grill where,  .  .  .  she would block no one’s view”

Someone this summer introduced me to the poet Irene Zimmerman, O.S.F. through her poem “Woman Un-Bent,” about a woman who could not stand up straight.  The un-named woman in Luke’s gospel reminds me of a student from 30 + years ago in a course I taught, “The Politics and Ethics of Engineering.”  There were 100 + students in the room. I made an issue of rewarding students who risked debating important matters, with one another and with me.  After the final class she came up with a sly look of triumph:  “I did it!  I got through the whole semester without you calling on me even once.”  She said she had perfected the art of easing her body slightly to hide behind other students without being too obvious about it.  It was, I agreed, quite an accomplishment.

I hope that this student, these several decades later, has learned not to hide.   That takes more than artful dodging, something more like courage and playful hope — like the un-named woman of Luke 13.  UDM freshmen will arrive for orientation week almost before we know it and this new season of mentoring will begin all over campus.

Best to read the poem out loud, several times, with pauses.  Have a blest day.

john sj

Today’s Post – Woman Un-Bent

{based on  Luke 13:10-17}

That Sabbath day as always
she went to the synagogue
and took the place assigner her
right behind the grill where,
the elders had concurred,
she would block no one’s view,

she would lean her heavy head,
and (though this was not said)
she would give a good example
to those who stood behind her,

That day, intent as always
on the word (for eighteen years
she’d listened thus), she heard
Authority when Jesus spoke.

Though long stripped
of forwardness,
she came forward, nonetheless
when Jesus summoned her.

“Woman, you are free
of your infirmity,” he said.

The leader of the synagogue
worked himself into a sweat
as he tried to bend the Sabbath
and the woman back in place.

But she stood up straight and let
God’s glory touch her face.

Irene Zimmerman


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