Simply to Do What Is Good

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Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbot

Mark 3:1-6
Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus 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 the Pharisees, “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, Jesus 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, help me to be more perceptive of your action in my life, of your action in my soul today. I need so much to be healed and saved by you. I also need to overcome my own pharisaical attitudes and embrace humility. Speak to me through the Gospel today.
Encountering Christ:

  1. Do Good Rather Than Evil?: Mark’s Gospel continues a sort of “series” on how Jesus was causing increasing unrest among the Pharisees. Jesus knew they were watching him closely and he didn’t shy away from the inevitable conflict. He called forward the man with the withered hand so that the miracle could be performed in front of everyone. When he had the crowd’s attention, he asked the question, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Knowing the hardness of their hearts, Jesus was certainly publicly calling out the Pharisees, but he was also highlighting the meaning behind his own mission. He came to give life and to give life to the extreme—all the way, to the point of giving up his own life for those who do evil! 
  2. Stretch Out Your Hand: The man with the withered hand was just one of many who assembled that day at the synagogue to listen to Jesus. He might not have had any idea that he would be called forward to stand before the Pharisees as Jesus gave his teaching. What a precarious position he was in. The political tensions were obviously high since Scripture tells us that the Pharisees immediately took counsel with the Herodians to put Jesus to death. This man must have wondered how he became the center of attention and what would come next. Jesus merely asked him to stretch out his hand. Once he obeyed, his hand was restored. What surprise and joy the man must have felt! Jesus sometimes calls us out of our comfort zone to express our love for him in difficult circumstances, to stick by our principles when we feel all alone, or to take on a task that seems overwhelming. When we follow Jesus’ instructions, doing what he asks, we can be sure that we will be abundantly blessed.
  3. Grieved at Their Hardness of Heart: Jesus was fully aware that the Pharisees and others like them throughout history would be too hardened to grasp the beauty and greatness of his mercy, of the “doing good” that he intended to accomplish by his Passion. Although he was angry and grieved, Jesus did not for one minute allow himself to be diverted from his journey to Jerusalem. He wants nothing more than for his love to be received. Now is the time to turn our hearts fully to Jesus, to soften them and purify them from all pharisaical attitudes. 

Conversing with Christ: Jesus, the Pharisees watched you closely to accuse you, and missed seeing what you were really doing. Open my eyes to see all the love you show me in my life, the many ways you do good and save life, but especially how you redeemed me. Let me never be hardened by a judgmental attitude. Let me never miss seeing your love because I think too highly of myself.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will perceive some ways you are doing good in my life today, take note of them, and thank you at the end of the day.
For Further Reflection: A meditation on the work Jesus did on the Sabbath after his death:
Fr. Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and worked for three years as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. Now he resides in Oakville, Ontario, serving youth and young adults.

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