Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary # 483. Philippians 1:1-11. Psalm 111:1-2.3-4.5-6.
Is it permitted to heal on the Sabbath? Jesus does heal a man with dropsy
and it is a Sabbath. This is not done in a synagogue setting but in the
home of a religious person who follows the Torah (Deuteronomy 5:14) and is
questioning Jesus for healing the man. We have learned that Jesus is Lord
of the Sabbath and that the Sabbath was made for men and women not they for
the Sabbath. Sabbath calls for rest, leisure, and prayer. We enter its
spirit by realizing we are children of God who enjoy freedom and that means
freedom of choice as well as other freedoms. Jesus again is giving us a
lesson as is his custom on this long journey narrative up to Jerusalem.
The person who invited Jesus to dine with him had to prepare for this meal
probably the day before the Sabbath. But inviting, eating and drinking are
permitted on the Sabbath as well as releasing an animal that was tethered
and needed fodder and water. The text also reads, “If one of you has a son
or an ox who falls into a well, will he hesitate to pull him out on the
Sabbath day?” The text reads “son” here and that can help us to
understand why Jesus is healing the man with dropsy. He had to be loosed
from the affliction that bound him to be noticed and looked at during a
dinner. Curiosity feeds on details and abnormalities. Jesus shows the
true meaning of the Sabbath by loosing the man from the deep well of water
that is within him. Thus it is permitted to heal on the Sabbath. After all
we learn from Genesis that everything that God created was good and this
included doing good on a Sabbath to honor the freedom and goodness God
gives each one of us.
True, we need to meditate on both Deuteronomy 5:14 as well as Luke 14:1-6.
The former text gives us the law about the Sabbath and helps us to
understand it within its own context. This then can help us to understand
the context of Jesus within Luke’s theology. The lawgiver is above the
law, but here this is more a better interpretation of the law than being
above it. If kindness to animals–ox, ass, cattle, sheep is permitted, how
much more the kindness to a son or daughter who needs to be loosed from an
infirmity. Deuteronomy is not to be interpreted literally nor passively.
It is a transformative scroll that tells us to choose life. Jesus
understands this for he has come to give life and to give it abundantly.
Deuteronomy (the second law) benefits slaves, foreigners and of course the
sons and daughters of Israel.
The man with dropsy is now free to celebrate the joy of the Sabbath and to
rest and pray. I am sure that he now was more aware that all that God
made, including the Sabbath is good; in fact, very good. Amen.