January 21, 2015

Gospel MK 3:1-6
Jesus entered the synagogue.
There was a man there who had a withered hand.
They watched Jesus 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 the Pharisees,
“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,
Jesus 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.
The Pharisees were intent on observing the letter of the Mosaic law which designated the sabbath as a day of rest. There were to be no exceptions. Work on the sabbath, even the healing of a suffering person, was considered a violation of the law. The punishment was death.
Jesus “was grieved at their hardness of heart.”
Our Lord, of course, knew the law and the punishment.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ act of mercy was based on a new commandment: God’s primary concern is the well being of His children. Christ’s message was clear: compassion and mercy supersede the law.
I am reminded of an incident involving a priest who during World War II was severely punished by his captors for stealing food while in a Japanese prison camp.
The eighth commandment clearly states: “Thou shall not steal.”
Like Jesus, the priest knew the commandment, but he stole in confidence of God’s mercy, for he was stealing for his fellow prisoners who were on the brink of death from starvation.
Psalm 85:10 reads: “Mercy and truth have met together. Grim justice and peace have kissed!”
We have all had the experience when someone has witnessed our good deed and exclaimed, “If there is any justice, you’re going straight to Heaven.”
For myself, I say, “Not justice Lord, but mercy, please mercy.”