Again, he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death. (Mark 3:1-6)
In this brief but emotion filled passage from the Gospel, the courage of Jesus stands out. Interesting but we use a lot of adjectives to describe Christ but courage is not used frequently. Perhaps it’s because of the emotive words used in this Gospel that I am led to use the adjective I did.
Look at the emotions at play here. First and foremost, we read that Jesus looked at the Pharisees with anger at their malice and malevolence and was grieved at their hardness of heart, which prevented them not only from seeing the place of charity in the law of God but also from looking on this man with love. Jesus had the courage to do good, even when it would cost him his life.
The Pharisees were consumed with hatred and their desire to entrap Jesus. That hatred was so consuming that they rushed out to conspire with the followers of Herod to kill Jesus.
The man that Jesus cured had a withered hand but a heart open to faith; the others had good health but closed and hard hearts.
Once again though, we see the pure love of Jesus Christ. Once again, he entered into the suffering of others, not out of pity but of love. Out of sadness and anger at the world’s hardness of heart came abundant love to heal the withered hand and to transform the man’s life with abundant courage and resilience and promise and hope, bringing him out of the shadows and into the light.
It is in this healing movement of Jesus – not just from Galilee to Jerusalem but in his turning from appeasement of the powerful towards solidarity with the suffering – that we are saved, that we are all healed. By this great and holy mystery, even the fear of illness and death, which sends us fleeing from the suffering of others, can be transformed by the cross – less a symbol of death and destruction and more one of sacrificial healing and restoration. By the power of Jesus to turn rejection, betrayal and hardness of heart into compassion, we are healed. By the courage of Jesus, we are inspired.
We read those words but a question remains. Knowing we are healed, knowing we are surrounded by his abundant love, knowing that by keeping the Great Command of love, we can join Him in eternal love, then are we courageous about our faith?
His Great Command is counter cultural. It stands in juxtaposition to those who seek the things of this word above the command of love. When those principles of materiality, of greed, of injustice, of inequality, of sinfulness are on display in front of us, are we courageous to stand up and cry out? Are we courageous enough to proclaim Jesus Christ as our savior in the public marketplace of this world? Are we courageous enough to work toward peace by demonstrating through both word and action that we are His followers and committed to the Great Command?
Or do we have a withered hand?
A withered hand is that bit of ourselves that prevents us from reaching out to proclaim His love. It’s that bit of ourselves that keeps us quiet in moments of repudiation of His teachings. It’s that bit of yourselves that makes us find an excuse that someone else can do it.
He came to unite us to himself so that he might unite us in love to each other, so that we might become “one body, one spirit in Christ.” By his wounds we are healed. All that is needed is for us to step out of the shadows and to stretch out our hand in love to Him and to one another.
Prayer of The Day
“My Lord and my God, forgive me those times that I have hidden in the shadows of this world. Strengthen me that I may freely and openly live out your teachings.”
St. Paul reminds us: “If I have not love, I am nothing.” Christianity is all about love and not conformity to laws.
Jesus uttered a principle that transcends all positive law: It is always justified to do what is good, provided no greater good is denied. Similarly, no truly loving act can ever be sinful even though it may violate a law.