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A Man with a Withered Hand
Again, he entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.
Opening Prayer: Lord, I come before you as one who is lame. You see me—a beautiful being marked by the scars of life. I desire to see what you see and humbly rest in the certainty that you make all things new.
- A Withered Hand: When we think about the man with the withered hand, we can imagine a life spent alone, in misery, yet in need. He was an outcast because a deformed hand banned him from living a “normal” life. Years of living in a dirty cave or on the filthy streets begging for food left him a scruffy, soiled mess. If he was noticed at all by the onlookers, it was in disgust. While the Pharisees did not bring this man to the temple, they saw this man’s unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to exalt their already self-inflated status. It seemed that they were more concerned about their reputation as “Teachers of the Law” than they were about personal holiness, because they disregarded an opportunity for charity by ignoring the need of a fellow man. How often do we find ourselves acting the same way? Do we set ourselves above the poor, the lowly, the lame?
- They Watched Him Closely: Why was this outcast, this social pariah, waiting at the synagogue where he knew he was not welcome? Surely he did not stumble upon there by happenstance. It was probable that he came week after week, seeking help from those who claimed to have the “ear” of God. The Pharisees certainly saw him, but they felt validated to avoid this man’s “impurity.” They were invested in stopping the threat that would expose their hypocritical righteousness: Christ. No man had ever exposed their hearts in the manner that Jesus so skillfully did. They should have been watching him to learn from him. Wasn’t that the reason why the man with the withered hand was there?
- “Stretch Out Your Hand”: Jesus always taught before he healed. Healing was the tangible part of his teaching. Jesus asked the man to stretch out his hand, and the hand was healed. Christ had no reason to ask the man to stretch out his hand. Healing wasn’t dependent on the man’s participation. Christ was teaching all who were present that the very thing which caused the man to be ostracized from society was a metaphoric sign of belonging. Jesus saw a man with a need, not a needy man. He welcomed the man, not the opportunity to outshine the Pharisees as “Teacher of the Law.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, thank you for teaching me the value of a soul. Help me not to measure by sight, nor to judge another based on my limited understanding, but to welcome all whom I encounter, in your name, for your glory.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will ponder your teaching, “Should we do good? Or should we do evil? Should we save life? Or should we destroy it?” and actively respond.
For Further Reflection: Twelve Tips for Effective Catholic Evangelization
Jeanette Cohn lives in Severna Park, Maryland, with her husband of thirty-four years. She works as a freelance writer and private tutor (email@example.com) and is the founder of St. John Paul II Formation Homeschool Academy (www.stjpii.org).