Can You Break "God’s Law" for a Person in Need?


19 January 2011 Wednesday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 7, 1-17; Psalm 110; Mark 3: 1-6

There are blatant sins. But there are sins which are seemingly right, but slowly kills the spirit. This is the sin of the hardhearted.

The Pharisees are not evil. They want what we all dream in a civilized society. Civilization is characterized by organization, order and the law that keeps that order. To follow the rules keeps the peace in a society that can otherwise turn into chaos. We feel safe if we all act according to the structures and policies we legislate. Think of traffic. If we follow traffic lights, there would be less accidents.

The Gospel today tests the limits of the law and therefore, challenges the one who staunchly follows the rules. We have the man with the withered hand who needs healing. But it is Sabbath: healing is considered work like a doctor’s job. And work is prohibited on a Sabbath. For the Pharisees, we have to consciously give the Lord time to be worshipped. Why can’t the man with the withered hand come back the next day? Why can’t Jesus perform His miracles after the Sabbath? What’s one more day compared to the long time of waiting for healing? What’s one more day for Jesus? He was working the rest of the week, doesn’t He deserve some rest too?

But Jesus proposes and challenges our set ways: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than do evil; to save a life rather than destroy it?”

To Jesus, the highest law is the law of charity. Doing good is always immediate; every opportunity to do good has to be done. It cannot be postponed the next day. The healing of the man with the withered hand is for Jesus more important than the particular observance of existing laws.

Jesus desires that we should be discerning. We should develop the ability to see the breaking of God’s grace into events in our lives, in new creative ways, far beyond what we have been accustomed to. Consider traffic: is it right to beat the red light in an emergency? Can you counter-flow when your wife is about to give birth? Can all rules crumble at life-threatening situations? You know the answer.

With regards to the Church — and that includes all of us: Are there instances when the Church — and we — can get so blinded in following what we think are necessary rules that we fail to encounter the breaking of God’s grace? When can the observance of God’s laws like liturgical rubrics be set aside in place of love for God’s people in need?

Sometimes what seems to be right can actually destroy love at the very foundation of every law in a civilized society.

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