Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward (εἰς τὸ μέσον, into the middle).’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.’” (Mk 3: 1-6)

So the Pharisees have murder in their hearts, seeking “to destroy” Jesus, – and this unlawful desire they embrace on the sabbath. At the same time, they object to our Lord’s insistence on “doing good” on the sabbath, like healing the man with the withered hand. This is why they are silent, when He asks them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” The Pharisees have so enslaved themselves (and others) to the external forms of the Law that they have no room in their hearts for its Spirit, Who is “Lord of the Sabbath” (cf. Mk 2: 28).

On this Saturday at the end of the first week of Lent, let me re-connect with the Lord of the Sabbath, opening my heart to His humble presence. However “good” or “bad” I am at following our fasting rules, let me not shut out His mercy, through formalistic demands of myself and/or others. I reach out to God, as one with a withered hand, unable “to do good” but by His grace.


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