On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching. There was a man with a paralyzed right hand, and the teachers of the law and the Pharisees watched him: Would Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath? If he did, they could accuse him.
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to the man, “Get up, and stand in the middle.” Then he spoke to them, “I want to ask you: what is allowed by the law on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And Jesus looked around at them all.
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored, becoming as healthy as the other. But they were furious, and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.
At the time of Jesus, whenever a Pharisee was asked: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good?” he would answer: “Not if it is work (except in immediate danger of death).” In other words, for him the ritual/legal order prevailed over the moral order. What was Jesus’ answer to the same question? “Yes, unconditionally, even when there is no danger of death, because the one thing that decides whether or not an action should be allowed on the Sabbath is its moral goodness.” In other words, for Jesus the moral order prevails over the ritual/legal order. For him, it cannot be the meaning of the Sabbath precept to prohibit a morally good act such as an act of love, because the omission of a good action is itself evil. And the Sabbath rest was instituted only by reason of God’s loving interest in the welfare of humans. These considerations form the background of today’s gospel reading.
Rules—including God’s commandments, of course—are for the total good of the human person. As the apostle Paul teaches: “All things are yours… and you are Christ’s (1 Cor 3:21-23).
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