Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, "Woman, you are set free of your infirmity." He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day." The Lord said to him in reply, "Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?" When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.
A woman crippled by a spirit. Luke describes her suffering suggesting that the physical ill is caused spiritually. This connection can be explained theologically, for the cause of disease as such is the reign of evil introduced in the world through sin. But we can also find a more human access to this account. For body and soul constitute one person. Hence, the soul affects the body and the body affects the soul.
A person bends over in order to become small, to protect the own weakness, to hide, to disappear. We can sense the pain of such a person, probably we have experienced it ourselves. If the spirit is haunted, the body trembles. Such a situation is truly a bondage. There are hundreds of ways how our spirit can end up haunted and bound. At the end, it always comes back to the same pattern: Sin binds our soul, sin takes away our freedom.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every physical sickness is the immediate consequence of one’s personal sins. No. But two things are certain: One, the effects of physical illness mirror the effect of sin - it disables us, weakens us, could even kill us. Two, the burden of physical sickness could easily make us yield to the temptation of despair or self-pity - and thus become an origin for sin. Be it that the origin of an illness is spiritual or physical, both dimensions are always in play, both dimensions need healing.
This is why Luke can speak without a doubt of a spirit binding that poor woman. More than only the primitive concept of a demoniac origin of all inexplicable phenomena of nature, he presents a true vision of us human beings and of how we suffer. Of course this woman was suffering spiritually! Everyone of us can experience that truth. Drifting into your day bent over is simply different from facing it with your head held high.
In some cases, it is enough to remind ourselves of that, to then lift our forehead into the light and to step out of the vortex of egotism. But in other cases, we find ourselves drowning and incapable of dragging ourselves out of the swamp by our own hair. “When Jesus saw [that], he called to her and said, ‘Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.’” Once the Lord steps into your day, glory dawns. He is the cause of freedom, He is the guarantee of life, He is what makes us happy in body and soul.
You want to be free. Jesus laid His hands on you more than once and enabled you to walk erect. Thank Him and glorify Him. Still, this world is confusing. There is a gravity to life which makes us bend down little by little if when left to ourselves. There are most likely elements right now in your life that are still haunted and somehow bound. In Christ’s sacraments, He offers us to recover our dignity time and again, healing us, freeing us, straightening us. Bring it all before Him, because you want to be free!