– 30th Week in Ordinary Time –
‘Is it against the law’ he asked ‘to cure a man on the sabbath, or not?’ But they remained silent, so he took the man and cured him and sent him away. [Luke 14:3-4]
The Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the more than six hundred laws found in the Old Testament. Some of these laws required a degree of interpretation. For example, if no one could work on the Sabbath, what constituted work? Was preparing a meal considered work?
In today’s gospel, Jesus had the opportunity to heal a man with dropsy, but was also aware that the lawyers and Pharisees with whom he was sharing a meal, would indeed view healing as work. So he gave the problem to them: “is it against the law to cure a man on the Sabbath, or not?” They did not respond to his question. After all, what are they to say, the sick man is present. Are they to tell a sick man he can’t be healed because it’s the wrong day of the week? Should Jesus care more for the sick man than for adherence to religious law? Will his whole ministry not be undermined if he is seen to break the law?
Jesus goes ahead and heals the sick man, but Jesus understands more than the Pharisees. Jesus, who is fully God, is aware that the law is in the service of right relationship. The law is designed to enable a meaningful life lived in right relationship to God and others. The law of rest on the Sabbath is designed to ensure the right relationship between humanity and God, but also right relationship between humanity and work. Thus, this law is motivated by love. Jesus acts out of this same motivation when he determines to heal the sick man. He is motivated by love, and acts in the best interests of the sick man.
St Paul addresses this concept in his letter to the Galatians when he writes that, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Galatians 5:22 – 23). In today’s gospel, Jesus acts out of love, kindness, generosity and gentleness. There is no law against such things!
By Peter Pellicaan
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