Testimony of the “Bent-Overs”

In this blog, I want to reflect on two Saints, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.  Both were sturdy and robust in their youth but arguably gave their greatest witness when they were old and “bent over.” Their testimony reminds us that Jesus uses the “bent-over” people of this world to accomplish His divine plan. 

Who are the “bentovers?” They are the ones who live life in a “crippled state.” Maybe it’s because of age or illness, or maybe it’s due to addictions, maltreatment or the feelings of shame or regret. For whatever reason, they are “bent over,” searching for hope and inspiration. 

Recently, we heard the Gospel passage of the “bentover” woman who encounters Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Isn’t that a thought-provoking way for the woman to be identified? She has no other name that we know – history has named her, judged her and labeled her by her appearance.  

The woman has been crippled for eighteen years and has undoubtedly spent a lot of time looking at her dusty sandals. Being “bent over” has affected every aspect of her life. What hope is there for her? She is unnoticed in the eyes of the world.  Not so with Jesus! He sees her and calls out to her, “Woman you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13:12) In other words, “Woman, you are no longer under the power of this thing that has controlled your life for so long… you are free to live in the grace and mercy of the one who loves and cares for you and knows everything you’ve ever experienced.” What did she do? She immediately stood up and praised God! (Luke 13:13) 

God uses the “Bent-overs” in His divine plan!

I stood before Mother Teresa in 1996. She came to Boston to give a talk. She arrived first at St. John’s Seminary where I and about 30 others were waiting to escort her by way of motorcade to a church where thousands were awaiting her presence. When I had my first glance at her, I thought how incredible it was that so many people were waiting for this small, “bent-over” woman. I had a brief moment when I took her hand and we looked at each other face to face. There she was, wrinkled and worn…but oh so beautiful. What was her secret? I got my answer when I heard her speak in the church: “Do small things with great love.” She told stories of the extraordinary gift of the weakest in our society. Those that were “bent over” and learned to stand straight (figuratively speaking) through God’s love and mercy. 

God uses the “bent-overs” in His divine plan.

In 2000, I stood before Pope John Paul II. I had loved him for years and had my first opportunity to go to Rome in the Jubilee year. I had the blessed opportunity to be granted a small audience where maybe 100 or so were invited for just a moment to take his hand and receive his blessing. When he first walked in the room, I thought the same thing I had when I first saw Mother Teresa. Here he is…the Vicar of Christ on earth, frail and “bent over.” It took him a long time to cross the room. When he sat down, it was more like falling into his chair. Then, we each approached him one by one. Finally, it was my turn. I knelt before him and took his hand and looked into his face…a face now worn and frozen with Parkinson’s disease…but oh so beautiful. A few hours later, he would lead a two-hour audience in St. Peter’s Square and his voice would resound before tens of thousands of people. What was his secret? “Totus Tuus”…Totally yours! Every day he relied not on his own strength, but on the strength of Christ. 

God uses the “bent-overs” in His divine plan.

Are you feeling a little bent-over? Maybe its age, sickness, frailty, sin, regret or shame. Maybe you’re feeling unused, misused, abused, forgotten or unloved. Remember, Jesus uses the “bentovers.” Through His strength, you can stand straight, give glory to God and support others. This November, you have two great role model saints…St. Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II.

God uses the “bent-overs” in His divine plan!