October 31, 2008
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Philippians 1:6-7
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them, “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” Luke 14:3-5
For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:8-11
The test is OVER. Now it is time for the Master to turn to the Socratic Method. After the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in trick questions about taxes and the law, Jesus now confronts them with His test.
Historical sources explain that the Pharisees were politically inactive (unlike the Sadducees). The Pharisees studied, taught, and worshiped in their own way. Although popular and respected, they had no political power. Rather, they only had the power of persuasion. So how odd is it that they seem at a loss for words when Jesus confronts them? Rather than use their persuasive talents, it appears as if Jesus has the last word. This scene completes the table turning because Jesus was able to “think” himself out of the trap of the tax question.
The second oddity in this story is the juxtaposition of the images of “son and ox.” The notes to the NAB explain that some translators think the phrase should have been “ass and ox.” But what if the current text is exactly what was intended?
When Jesus came into the world, his parents laid him in a manger that was surrounded by livestock. He appeared no higher up in the social order than the ox, lamb and other farm animals we typically imagine in a Nativity scene.
No one came to the rescue of Jesus when he was tried, convicted, condemned and executed for trumped up charges by the church and state. It is more realistic in a Gospel story to image the Pharisees would sooner save an ox on Good Friday than have Jesus’ life spared. At death, he also appeared to be no higher in the social order than the animals being led to the slaughter for Passover.
“Save your son or ox” is the challenge to all
Sometimes we are asked to save someone we do not like. Maybe we are not called upon to run into a burning building or catch a bullet for another. However, sometimes we are challenged to pray for healing and saving of people we do not like as much as others. As
Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
Today, pray for someone from whom you are estranged or for some organization or situation that has caused you pain. Offer up your pain for their healing.
Twelve step programs go further and call on people to make “a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” Are you ready to call on someone that you have harmed and make amends?
If we truly believe in what we read today and hold them in our hearts like partners in grace, then we will be able to pray for our enemies and persecutors. Or will we remain like the Pharisees, unable to answer the question?