In today’s gospel, we hear for the third time that Jesus goes to dine in the home of one of the Pharisees. And, once again, the controversy of healing people on the sabbath comes up.
A Dramatic Reversal of Fortunes
As they’re dining or literally eating bread with one another, it’s not a time to relax. The scholars of the Jewish law and the Pharisees are watching Jesus closely, hoping to trip him up and accuse him of breaking the Jewish law once again.
This time, there’s a man right in front of Jesus who is suffering from a disease that creates edema or swelling because the body is retaining excessive amounts of fluid. Further complicating his condition is a thirst which, when acted upon, only makes the situation worse; more fluid is not the solution, and yet that is what is craved.
The ancient writers compared this unquenchable thirst, making things worse, with the vice of greed, a thirst for money that only weakens the soul. Some have speculated that Luke specifies this illness as a metaphor for the Pharisees' never-ending desire for honor.
This scene is a study in contrast. On one hand, the elite Pharisee and on the other, the diminished man, weakened and suffering from illness. It sets up a dramatic reversal of fortunes and echoes Jesus' claim that the first shall be last and the last first. It’s the man’s presence that prompts Jesus’ question about whether it is lawful to cure on the sabbath.
What This Means to Us
In this moment, Jesus is teaching about who is the Lord of the Sabbath, the elite of their time, or the Son of God … food for thought for our generation. Although all kept silent, we know the answer, for Jesus healed and dismissed the man on that sabbath day. The translation for the word “dismissed” is the same word used for the crippled woman who was set free on another sabbath day.
We’re left to realize that Jesus sets free those who:
Trust in Him
Those who believe in His compassion
Those who humbly seek His help in our lives
And our need for Jesus' healing isn’t limited to physical maladies. We know that, at times, we, like the Pharisees, can be tempted or thirsty for honor, power, and money … really all sorts of things that can also weaken our spiritual lives. We can, even in ordinary ways, pick and choose which of God’s teachings we’ll follow as did the Pharisees.
Thoughts for This Weekend
Lastly, today’s gospel is perfectly timed as we enter the weekend. It is the encouragement to invite our family members, friends, and neighbors to join us for Sunday Mass as we keep holy the Lord’s Day. The sabbath or Lord’s Day is also a time for family and friends while giving thanks to God, praying for one another, and appreciating the gift of life as we get ready for another week, guided by Jesus' teaching and strengthened through receiving the Eucharist, our source of nourishment for the journey of life.
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About Father David Marcham
Reverend David S. Marcham is the Vice Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton, and Director of the Father Peyton Guild, whose members pray for Father Peyton’s beatification and spread his message of the importance of Family Prayer. Prior to becoming a seminarian, Father David was a physical therapist and clinical instructor, serving hospital inpatients and outpatients throughout the greater Boston area for eleven years. In 1998 he heard the call to priesthood and was ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2005. Father David grew up in Quincy, MA, and has fond memories of playing soccer, tennis and running track. You’re never without a friend when Father David is around, as he welcomes everyone into his circle with a smile on his face!