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Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 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?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.
Opening Prayer: Lord, I come to you in my need and with my limitations. I ask you to be close to me with your grace today so that I can grow in my faith, hope, and love. My Father in heaven, I turn to you as my defender and provider. Please keep me aware of your loving presence and tender concern for my life today, showing me how pleased you are with me and your desire to walk with me. Come Holy Spirit, fill me with your gifts and enlighten my mind and my heart, so that I can be docile in responding to all your inspirations.
- Order of Priority: The scribes and Pharisees were caught up with protocol. Consumed with the structures of the Law, they completely missed the opportunity to notice the handicapped man in need. Jesus, on the other hand, had his priorities in the right order. Even while teaching and knowing he was being carefully watched, he restored the man’s withered hand to normality. Being attentive to the needs of others should never be subjected to rules and regulations. Jesus elsewhere in the Gospels clarified this point, saying that we should have pity even for an animal despite rules that may impede such acts of kindness. “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11). We are given the gift of spiritual freedom to respond to the needs of those around us with love. These providential moments reveal where our hearts are. How am I ordering the priorities of my life? Are there activities or duties absorbing my attention so that I hide behind them? Where am I too hurried, busy, or self-absorbed to show interest in the needs of my loved ones and others around me? “For if I do not have love, I gain nothing, I am nothing, and I am brought to nothing” (1 Corinthians 13).
- Divine Care and Concern: For Jesus, the most important person in the synagogue at that moment was the man with the withered hand. Jesus was filled with love and compassion; therefore, anyone in need becomes the focus of his divine care and concern. This is our loving God. God comes to our aid in Christ. We are beloved; we are loveable; we are known; we are pursued; we are chosen; we are noticed; we are understood; we are the sole interest of Our Father’s tenderness. Our needs and weaknesses are an attraction for the Lord. He draws near. God is more interested in our need for him than in our perfection. Jesus comes to fulfill our needs every day through the working of the Holy Spirit, through the holy sacrifice of the Mass, through prayer, and through the Father’s providential wisdom. Let’s open our needy hearts and deepen our gratitude for his kindness.
- Filled with Fury: We can be shocked at how the scribes and Pharisees reacted to Jesus’s healing of the man’s withered hand. Throughout this encounter, the truth of their intentions was being revealed. Jesus’s rule of love challenged their control over the law. The authorities were disproportionately furious at the man’s cure, and immediately started discussing how they could stop Jesus. Where does rigidity or harshness fester within my heart due to false or unrealized expectations? Where is the Lord inviting me to be open to letting go of any frustration or envy? Look to Jesus to ask for his merciful and compassionate heart, to be freed of any anger, resentment, or disbelief.
Conversing with Christ: O God, thank you for revealing to me the truth about myself. I want to believe in all you have revealed. You are my Savior and Redeemer who longs to purify, heal, and strengthen my weak heart. I so easily get caught up in trying to prove my worthiness and find security in what I accomplish. I can lose sight of the truth that only what is done in love will bear fruit and endure. I want to live with spiritual freedom, giving of myself out of sincere compassion and generosity. Draw me more and more towards compassionate action for the weak and the suffering. Show me how to discover and delight in the presence of your love hidden within the needs and wants of those around me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will be attentive to the needs of those around me, not hesitating to show interest, concern, and compassion for each person I encounter. I will not calculate or measure the effort I have to take, remembering that “if I do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13).
For Further Reflection: Watch the Conference from Miracles of Mercy: A Retreat Guide on the Healing Touch of Jesus by Father John Bartunek, LC, to understand more deeply how we can live as signs of God’s mercy by understanding and taming the emotion of anger:
Written by Lucy Honner, CRC.