Monday of week 23 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 6:6-11
Immediately following the incident of plucking the grains in the cornfield, we have another confrontation with religious leaders also on a sabbath day. This one is even nastier as it involves what is called in American police movies a “set up” or “entrapment”. Jesus had gone into the local synagogue, as was his practice on the sabbath, and began to teach. Right in front of him was a man with a withered hand, no doubt something he was born with. There were scribes and Pharisees in the congregation and, we are told, they “were watching him” to see whether he would heal the man on a sabbath day so that they could accuse him of breaking the Law. Medical work was forbidden on the sabbath because it normally took time. Jesus, of course, healed with just a word but even if he did not, could one say that healing was against the spirit of the Sabbath? At the same time, it is also worth noting that the man was suffering from a chronic and probably non-painful disability. There was no need for him to be cured on the spot; it could easily have waited until the next day. That gives further point to Jesus’ argument. The poor man had clearly been “planted”. He was being used as bait for their sinister ends. For the Pharisees and their co-conspirators the man and his plight were secondary. They had to prove their point and he was seen as a useful tool. Jesus, of course, is fully aware of what is going on. He speaks directly to the disabled man: “Rise up and stand out in the middle!” The command to “rise up” is already an indication of what is going to take place; the man is going to be given new life. Nor is there any secrecy. What Jesus is going to do is to be seen by all. But first he puts a question to the whole congregation, scribes and Pharisees included: “Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil? to save life or to destroy it?” It is really an unanswerable question because the answer is so obvious. But it was not the way these Pharisees were thinking. Their question would be very different: “Is it right to obey the Law or to violate it?” For them the Law, even the letter of the Law, was paramount.  There is an irony in Jesus’ question because Jesus is planning to bring healing into a man’s life while they were preparing to bring about his destruction. Who was really breaking the sabbath? Not so with Jesus. For him the Law was relative to the true and the good. No implementation of a law can offend the true and the good. And sometimes the following of the true and the good may have to go against the letter of the law. What is legal is not always moral. It can be immoral, that is, evil, to obey a law in certain circumstances. What is moral sometimes transcends the law and may even contradict the law. Hearing no dissenting answer, Jesus says to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so. His arm was fully restored to normal. The scribes and Pharisees were furious and began to plot against Jesus. Their plans had been brought to nought. They showed no pleasure that a crippled man had been made whole. Their interpretation of the law had been shown to be wanting and they had to get back at Jesus. Such situations are by no means unknown in our Christian life and in our Church. We will run into situations where doing good may be in conflict with traditional regulations and legal formulae.We will find ourselves in situations where contemporary Pharisees will try to put the Church into a strait-jacket of narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism whether it involves our understanding of the Scripture or the liturgy or morality or something else. These are people who put the letter of the laws, regulations and rubrics before love. For them it is more important to observe the externals of rules than to be a loving person.

Comments Off on Monday of week 23 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Printed from LivingSpace - part of Sacred Space
Copyright © 2017 Sacred Space :: www.sacredspace.ie :: All rights reserved.