The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him (Lk 6:7).
This is an unfortunate and sad scene in the Gospel, what is even worse is that this is not an isolated incident for the scribes and Pharisees. They are often watching him closely to accuse him. Accuse Jesus of what? Of not honoring the sabbath and breaking the law of God. There is quiet anticipation as Jesus calls a man with a withered hand up to him.
Jesus knows the hearts and minds of his would-be accusers, he also knows what is at stake regarding what he is about to do, but because he is more concerned with the condition of the man and not his standing in the community, because Jesus seeks to express the will of God and not impress those in his midst he asks aloud: “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it” (Lk 6:9)? Jesus did not wait for an answer but told the man to stretch out his hand. The man did so and was healed.
These two phrases coming from Jesus in today’s Gospel we need to commit to memory and meditation for they are foundational principles regarding how we ought to interact with one another. First, whenever we wonder as to whether or not we ought to help someone, we need to ask ourselves, “Is it lawful to do good or evil, to save life or destroy it?” If more of us ask this question, we will be more ready, willing, and available to help those in need in our realm of influence. If a law promotes evil, demeans the dignity of another in inhumane ways, we are to speak out against it and provide help to those oppressed by it.
Second, “Stretch out your hand”, is another phrase we can take to heart. We can address the need of a person by providing what understanding and assistance we can. Are we the Son of God? No, but we can access the power of God through calling on the name of Jesus. Maybe we will not heal a man’s withered hand, but we can provide a smile, a cup of water, food, some money, our presence, volunteer with groups who are already engaged, and we can write to and pressure our congressional leaders to support the dignity of the people under their care. We can also ask God to send us to those he would have us serve and he will.
Pope Francis shared in his homily yesterday that “we Christians cannot stand with arms folded in indifference, or with arms outstretched in helplessness. No. As believers, we must stretch out our hands, as Jesus does with us.” To be a Christian is to be willing to serve as Jesus did. That means being willing; to encounter one another, to respect the dignity of each person we meet, to provide a human hand and human presence to those in need and to assist them the best we can, one person at a time.
Photo: Vatican News, Pope with children at Akamasoa Association, article link