instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, September 06, 2010

A handy answer

There's something of a cottage industry in writing books that look at the questions Jesus asks in the Gospels, the general idea being, of course, that as His disciples we ought to be prepared to answer those same questions.

Or perhaps, as with His question from today's Gospel reading, to avoid being asked the question in the first place. Luke 6:6-11 relates the story of the man with the withered hand*:
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.

But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, "Come up and stand before us." And he rose and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?"
My own honest answer to this question would be, "Erm... yes, right?"

Of course, the Church's discipline regarding the Lord's Day is much more lax than First Century Jewish discipline regarding the Sabbath (and let's not talk here about how Catholics actually observe the Lord's Day in practice). So maybe, to hear what Jesus is asking me, I should broaden the question from one of religious discipline to one of daily virtue.

The scribes and Pharisees were working harder than Jesus on this particular Sabbath, doing evil by plotting to destroy life. They were being, in a word, Pharisaical, and by choosing this behavior had blinded themselves to what they were seeing.

Here, to be Pharisaical is to constrain the works of God to operate within one's own understanding, and to condemn anyone who acts contrary to one's constraints. It goes beyond attending to what is committed to you and declares that whatever is hidden from you is false.

That's something I'm more likely to do than criticize someone for working on Sunday.

* Ever the physician, Luke specifies that it was the man's right hand. This detail emphasizes the magnitude of the man's suffering and the symbolism of Jesus' restoration.