On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6: 6-11)
In just six lines of scripture, Luke recounts a scene in the life of Jesus that should sober us and then propel us forward in our life.
Jesus’ mission was not just to save and sanctify but to revolutionize, to turn right side up, the way his people had distorted religion, to give us new wineskins to receive new wine. This distortion was epitomized by the way the Pharisees and Scribes treated the Sabbath, making it a day of extraordinary rules about everything they couldn’t do, rather than a day of loving God with all they had and loving their neighbor.
The Scribes and the Pharisees went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, but they really weren’t going for that reason. St. Luke tells us that their main focus was to “watch Jesus closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.”
Jesus’ mission was not just to save and sanctify but to revolutionize, to turn right side up, the way his people had distorted religion, to give us new wineskins to receive new wine.
The suffering of the man with the withered hand didn’t matter much to the Pharisees. Even though they would rescue an animal from a trap on a Sabbath, they wouldn’t care for their fellow man, as if restoring him to health would somehow be offensive to God. So Jesus, reading their hearts, asked the question: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” It was a poignant question because he was intending to do good and to save life, and they were intending to do evil and destroy life.
Jesus worked the miracle in today’s Gospel not only on the Sabbath but in a synagogue to show that he had come as Messiah to rehabilitate the meaning of worship, indicating to us that to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength involves loving our neighbor as he loves them.
The new worship Christ came to inaugurate involves this union between faith and life, between what we believe and what we do. Our worship of the God of love is meant to transform us more and more into his image. That is our faith. Anything less than should tell us that the words of Jesus Christ mean little in our lie.
In fact, that’s the big question on which the meaning of our life hinges:
Does love really compel us?
Is our passion for God something that transform the way we treat everyone else?
Do we see that the way we treat the least among us is the way we treat the Lord?
Do we grasp that whenever we receive someone in Christ’s name, even a child who was insignificant at the time of Christ, we receive the Lord himself?
Do we behave toward each other, even in community life, with the reverence with which we would give to Jesus himself?
Dorothy Day, once said, that we love the Lord to the extent that we love the persons we like the least. And so does our relationship with the Lord drive us toward really sacrificing, praying, forgiving, caring for those people we don’t get along with, those who might treat us poorly, those who might even behave as if they despise us?
Does Christ’s mission of charity toward us change us in such a way that we, too, become missionaries of charity?
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, in your victory over sin and death on the cross and in your resurrection you give us the assurance of sharing in the eternal rest of heaven. Transform my heart with your love so that I may freely serve my neighbor for his good and find joy in moving closer to you.”
Ambrose of Hippo who lived three hundred years after Jesus wrote: “Then you heard the words of the Lord, saying, ‘Stretch forth your hand.’ That is the common and universal remedy. You who think that you have a healthy hand beware lest it is withered by greed or by sacrilege. Hold it out often. Hold it out to the poor person who begs you. Hold it out to help your neighbor, to give protection to a widow, to snatch from harm one whom you see subjected to unjust insult. Hold it out to God for your sins. The hand is stretched forth; then it is healed. Jeroboam’s hand withered when he sacrificed to idols; then it stretched out when he entreated God (1 Kings 13:4-6).” (Ambrose of Hippo 337-390AD)