Is it Lawful to Save Life or to Destroy it? – Catholic Readings and Reflection For Monday, 11th September

First Reading: From the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians 1:24–2:3

24 It makes me happy to be suffering for you now, and in my own body to make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church,

25 of which I was made a servant with the responsibility towards you that God gave to me, that of completing God’s message,

26 the message which was a mystery hidden for generations and centuries and has now been revealed to his holy people.

27 It was God’s purpose to reveal to them how rich is the glory of this mystery among the gentiles; it is Christ among you, your hope of glory:

28 this is the Christ we are proclaiming, admonishing and instructing everyone in all wisdom, to make everyone perfect in Christ.

29 And it is for this reason that I labour, striving with his energy which works in me mightily.

1 I want you to know, then, what a struggle I am having on your behalf and on behalf of those in Laodicea, and on behalf of so many others who have never seen me face to face.

2 It is all to bind them together in love and to encourage their resolution until they are rich in the assurance of their complete understanding and have knowledge of the mystery of God

3 in which all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.


Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 62:6-7, 9

6 He alone is my rock, my safety, my stronghold, so that I stand unwavering.

7 In God is my safety and my glory, the rock of my strength. In God is my refuge;

9 Ordinary people are a mere puff of wind, important people a delusion; set both on the scales together, and they are lighter than a puff of wind.


Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of Saint Luke 6:6-11

6 Now on another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was present, and his right hand was withered.

7 The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure somebody on the Sabbath, hoping to find something to charge him with.

8 But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Get up and stand out in the middle!’ And he came forward and stood there.

9 Then Jesus said to them, ‘I put it to you: is it permitted on the Sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?’

10 Then he looked round at them all and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored.

11 But they were furious and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.


Reflection

Theme: Is it Lawful to Save Life or to Destroy it?

What is God’s intention for the commandment, keep holy the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12)? The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God’s law. In a few penetrating words Luke records that Jesus knew their thoughts. They were filled with fury and contempt for Jesus because they had put their own thoughts of right and wrong above God. They were ensnared in their own legalism because they did not understand or see the purpose of God. Jesus shows them their fallacy by pointing to God’s intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.

Christ’s healing power raises hands and hearts towards heaven
What is the significance of Jesus’ healing the man with the withered hand? Ambrose (337-397 AD), the 4th century bishop of Milan who was instrumental in bringing Augustine of Hippo to the Christian faith, comments on this miracle:

“Then you heard the words of the Lord, saying, ‘Stretch forth your hand.’ That is the common and universal remedy. You who think that you have a healthy hand beware lest it is withered by greed or by sacrilege. Hold it out often. Hold it out to the poor person who begs you. Hold it out to help your neighbor, to give protection to a widow, to snatch from harm one whom you see subjected to unjust insult. Hold it out to God for your sins. The hand is stretched forth; then it is healed. Jeroboam’s hand withered when he sacrificed to idols; then it stretched out when he entreated God (1 Kings 13:4-6).”

Receive God’s gift of sabbath rest and restoration
Why do Christians celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day? Most importantly we celebrate it to commemorate God’s work of redemption in Jesus Christ and the new work of creation accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s action is a model for us. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, we, too, ought to “rest” and let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed” as well (see Exodus 31:17; 23:12). Taking “our sabbath rest” is a way of expressing honor to God for all that he has done for us. Such “rest” however does not exempt us from our love for our neighbor. If we truly love the Lord above all else, then the love of God will overflow to love of neighbor as well. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) said: “The charity of truth seeks holy leisure; the necessity of charity accepts just work.”

How can we make Sunday a day holy to the Lord? First, by refraining from unnecessary work and from activities that hinder the worship we owe to God. We can also perform works of mercy, such as humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the neglected. And we ought to seek appropriate relaxation of mind and body as well. The joy of the Lord’s Day is a great gift to refresh and strengthen us in our love of God and of neighbor (Nehemiah 8:10). Do you know the joy of the Lord and do you find rest and refreshment in celebrating the Lord’s Day?

“Lord Jesus, in your victory over sin and death on the cross and in your resurrection you give us the assurance of sharing in the eternal rest of heaven. Transform my heart with your love that I may freely serve my neighbor for his good and find joy and refreshment in the celebration of Sunday as the Lord’s Day.”

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