Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?
Readings: 1st: Phil 1:1-11; Ps 111; Gos: Lk 14:1-6
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, Canóvanas 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: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, Friday of the thirtieth week of ordinary time, Luke presents dialogue between Christ and the Pharisees before he healed a man suffering from dropsy.
Christ asked the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?” Of course, they did not answer this question. However, in their heart, undoubtedly, their answer is “it is not lawful because the law forbids it.”
According to Jewish tradition, work is prohibited on the Sabbath. So, the Pharisees were strict in their defense and enforcement of this law.
Yes, the law is everything for the Pharisees, and must be observed rigidly; even when human life is at risk, one must not go against the law.
An important lesson for us today is 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 with conserving what is good. However, the problem is in becoming a “legalistic Christian.”
Unfortunately, legalism can easily become the archenemy of the fundamental Christian virtue of Charity. This was the problem of the Pharisees and the Scribes and the problem of some of today’s Christians.
The more legalistic and rigid we become, the more insensitive we become to others’ immediate needs and plight. In this way, we lose the capacity to empathize with others and, consequently, the real essence of life.
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 particular law, especially when its “violation” causes no harm to anyone.
So, the difference between Christ’s priority of Christ and his critics’ is the difference between a charitable and a legalistic Christian.
Peace be with you