But they (religious/political authorities) were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’

JESUS, BEING WATCHED, to see if he would break the law by healing, and therefore be guilty of doing work, on the Sabbath, had asked the simple question to those who would punish him under the law, “Is it lawful to do good or do bad on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” For Jesus, their silence speaks loud!
It is hard to imagine in our society there being a law against working on any day, let alone a day set aside to be still with God. The sabbath must certainly have been a God blessed day each week and we can only dream of such a day being enshrined in our laws. However, the Pharisees in the Gospel reading are not upholding the virtues of a law given to set people free to pray, rest and worship. They are using the letter of the law as a tool of oppression while hiding behind its institutionalized authority in order to wield power, shrinking from any responsibility to think about its meaning or intention. But Jesus has come “to proclaim good news to the poor… freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4.18). For him, hiding behind laws or using them to inhibit or enchain is not an option and he will not bow to those who administer such. The question the Pharisees cannot answer in their twisted hypocrisy is the question the Christ within each one of us asks: “Is this thing that I am doing or am about to do, life giving or life damaging?” If we are bound by the letter of law and not free to think and act in the Spirit of God, then we cannot answer this question. Our conscience may yet nag but the chances are we will make big efforts to blot it out, and a self-righteous interpretation of law is a powerful sedative. Jesus says, “The sabbath is made for humankind, not humankind for the sabbath”. Listen to him. He sets you free!


~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on June 2, 2018.

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