Today’s Gospel: Luke 13:10-17
Once again we find Jesus becoming weary of those who to outside appearances are devout followers of His Father. At a quick glance, this leader of the faithful could be seen to be attempting to preserve the dignity of the Sabbath, a day of rest commanded by God. After all, Jews to this day who strictly observe the Sabbath do not do so much as turn on electric lights or start the stove from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. I’ve been told stories of my grandfather earning a nickel every week for turning lights on for his Jewish neighbors in Brooklyn. No work, even preparing meals, may be done.
But Jesus came to tell us that we don’t have to take such extremes. Certainly we should rest from unnecessary work on The Lord’s Day. It’s not a day to be out mowing the lawn, chopping wood or catching up on housework. But at the same time, when a need arises, God knows we need to take care of each other. Though we shouldn’t make a habit of doing all the laundry on Sunday afternoons, what mother will tell her sick child that she can’t change his sheets after he was sick in bed? Even though observant Jews don’t cook on the Sabbath, they still set the table for breakfast and lunch and they still eat! Necessary work is a different thing from the unnecessary work that can be done another day.
Jesus tells the leaders of the faithful that God wants obedience. The Sabbath was created for us to grow closer to Him not to prevent us from helping someone who needs it. Even these same men who condemned the healing of this woman on the Sabbath weren’t so cruel as to not let their animals eat or drink on the day of rest. And yet here is a woman who is a treasured child of God, one of God’s chosen people, whom they would deny healing to free her from the bondage of a demon. Their outward righteousness was exposed as mere lip-service in front of everyone.
Saint Paul’s message in the first reading fits with what Jesus is asking of us: “Brothers and sisters: Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”
Do I make excuses in my life not to help out of a kind of false righteousness? True charity means that I see my brothers and sisters in need with the love of Christ, that I see Jesus in each of them. Is there someone I am holding a grudge against, or that I am angry with, who I can forgive? What’s holding me back from forgiving?
Father in Heaven, teach me to see my brothers and sisters in need with eyes of love and to treat each of them as I would treat You. Show me how to forgive instead of holding on to my anger so that I don’t hold a false righteousness in my heart.
Copyright 2014 Christine Johnson