HEALING ON THE SABBATH

Friday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time               

            I read a story about a guard in the middle of the garden without a sentry. For many generations, a guard was posted there without knowing why. The only reason given was that the queen ordered it. Someone was dissatisfied with this explanation so he tried to uncover the history of the guard posted in the middle of a garden. He discovered that long time ago an old queen planted a special rose in the middle of the garden and asked a guard to watch it day and night for fear that it would die. The rose eventually died; and some years later the queen, who ordered the posting of the guard, also died. But the practice of posting a guard in the middle of the garden remained. It became a ‘tradition’, as it were – something that must be continued, even if the reason for doing so was not anymore there.

            There are many human laws and traditions that are carried on to this day simply because some crazy autocrat ordered them to be so. The sabbath law as interpreted by the Pharisees and scribes belonged to this category. In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges this by healing on a sabbath.

            Once again, Jesus emphasizes that the welfare of the human person is much more important than the strict observance of the sabbath. In effect, Jesus subordinates this religious observance to the need of human beings. He does not postpone healing a sick person. His healing is not restricted to a certain time and place. Jesus declares that the sabbath law should not prevent a person from having access to God and to life itself. The wellbeing of a person is of greater importance than mere observance of the law. As one commentary puts it, “The Sabbath is the proper time for God to do his thing, to make right a disordered world and make creation a fitting praise for him.”

            As Christ’s followers, we should make our own Christ’s priority: the wellbeing of persons. Let us ask ourselves: Do we tend to relegate love to seasons? Do we restrict it to particular time or place? There is no humane reason to postpone healing for another day since acts of mercy and compassion know no bounds of law.

            “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” (St. Irenaeus) Let us pray that we may be inspired to share in Christ’s healing ministry – to free our neighbor from the bondage of various kinds of illnesses. The sabbath is the proper day to give fitting glory to God by helping a neighbor to be fully alive.

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