As individuals we periodically take time to review our lives and make necessary adjustments. While still early in this new year, I commend for your reflection the story of the "man with the withered hand". This can be found in Mark 3:1-6.|
Jesus has noticed the man who needs a healing. He has also noted that the Pharisees are practically drooling for an opportunity to condemn him. Jesus realizes that this is a good opportunity for a teaching. The Pharisees are not open to learning, but there are others there who are. Jesus faces a decision: He could either let the Pharisees teach by their attitude that it is tolerable to ignore the needs of people who are hurting, or He could teach by his actions that moral law is higher than religious law, and that caring for someone is morally right and that ignoring a need is morally wrong.
There may be irony in Jesus' saying to the man, "Stretch out your hand" (Mk 3:5). He responded and was immediately set free from his ailment. But when Jesus said to the Pharisees, "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?" (Mk 3:4) they refused to respond. They chose silence rather than stretch their way of thinking. Jesus wanted to expand their understanding of the law. They elected to maintain their withered way of thinking. Did you ever witness an attitude that was hurtful and wish you had the courage to speak up against it?
It is easy for us to shake our heads at the Pharisees' stubbornness. We wonder at their rigidity. In truth it is likely that they were sincere in their conviction that Jesus had broken the law. From their childhood they heard the religious leaders insist on obedience to the law. The law came from God; how dare Jesus challenge or seek to change it? Such respect for God's word is admirable, but it can fail to realize God's intention. Sometimes we lose sight of the value and the reason for the law or the practice.
Most of us spend a lot of time observing from the sidelines. Many times we focus on the way things are done rather than on what is done. We are so involved in the style rather than the substance. Those who opposed Jesus while He healed the sick on a sabbath did not have the sense to understand the goodness of what He did. Like them, we are often blinded by what is going on and happening around us. We are carried away by our own perceptions and beliefs, which are founded on our social background, status, breeding, education and our own interests and concerns, even our position and role in community.
This passage (Mk 3:1-6) suggests that we reconsider some of our cherished practices and beliefs, not that we may discard them for fads and false teachings, but that we may stretch and hone in once more on the values and truths they are meant to preserve. So let us ask our Lord for His grace so that when we see what is happening around us from a distance, we may see the truth and act on it accordingly in the Name of our Lord.
Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes