Charity versus Legalism
Readings: 1st: 1 Cor 5:1-8; Ps: 5; Gos: Lk: 6:6-11
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the Monday of the twenty third week of ordinary time, Luke presents another miracle of Christ, with its parallels in Mt 12:10-14 and Mk 1:1-6.
Today’s miracle was a two-way test for Christ. The test of his fidelity to his saving mission, and the test of the expectations of his critics. Christ passed both tests.
First, he healed the man with a withered hand in fulfillment of his mission: “To proclaim liberty to captives, and heal the sick” (Lk 4:16-19).
Also, he passed the second test. He fulfilled the expectation of his critics, by healing the man on a sabbath day. Of course, he did what they expected of him, “violation” of the Sabbath, in other to have an evidence to accuse him.
So, for the Pharisees, what was important, or the problem was not that Christ healed, or saved a son of Abraham like them, who was suffering.
Rather, they “watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.” So, the observance of the sabbath law was more important that the man’s life.
An important lesson for us today is, in the difference between the priority of Christ, and that of his critics. For Christ, the most important priority was the restoration and well-being of his people and the entire humanity.
While for the Pharisees, it was, to enact and protect more laws that only made life and charity more difficult for the people.
Some Christians prefer to be referred to as “conservative Christians.” Their actions and words show that they wish to be: “more Catholic than the pope.”
Of course, there is nothing wrong in conserving what is good. However, the problem is, in becoming a “legalistic Christian.”
Unfortunately, legalism can easily become the archenemy of the very important Christian virtue of Charity. This was the problem of the Pharisees and the Scribes, as it is the problem of some Christians of today.
Christ was not against the sabbath law, but he teaches us that, at times Christian charity and mercy can prevail for a greater good, over a certain law. Especially, when its “violation” causes no harm to anyone.
So, the difference between the priority of Christ, and that of his critics, is the difference between a charitable and a legalistic Christian.
Peace be with you all.