Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Look in the Mirror

January 19, 2011
Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death. (Mark 3:1-6)

Lord, sometimes I feel you tugging at me, stretching me in my faith. Forgive me for resisting. Sometimes I feel you trying to open my eyes to the errors of my ways. Forgive me for preferring blindness to new insights. Even though I am stubborn, I love you, Lord, and I beg you never to stop pulling me toward you in love.

Imagine that it’s next Sunday and you are praying. You are seeking healing, perhaps for yourself or maybe for a friend. There’s something in your life or that of your friend which needs God’s healing touch. Suddenly, you hear God speaking to you, but you can hardly believe what you’re hearing! God tells you, “Sorry, but don’t you know what day it is? It’s the Sabbath. I’m resting. No healing today.” How ludicrous that sounds to our ears! We’ve been taught that God hears and answers our prayers any time of day or night, every day of the year. God would never respond to us in that manner.

But the Pharisees would. They zealously uphold every detail of the Law, including prohibiting healing on the Lord’s Day. I feel sorry for them, because obviously the image of God they hold in their hearts isn’t a very compassionate or loving one.

Sabbath or not, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus goes ahead and touches the withered hand of the man in the spotlight. Immediately, his hand is made whole again. Jesus asks the Pharisees if it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to save a life, but they don’t respond. Jesus wants them to open their hearts, to recognize how much God loves the people he calls his own, and to see that God’s laws should bring us closer to this loving God, not alienate us.

There are those wicked Pharisees up to no good again, we say to ourselves. But hold on a minute. I don’t know that I want to be so quick to vilify them, because, on closer inspection, I see something of myself reflected in them. The Pharisees are frightened people. They have their own little kingdom all set up, where they run the show, know the rules and zealously uphold them. They don’t want anyone or anything disturbing their peace or dragging them out of their comfort zone, which is exactly what Jesus is trying to do. Their minds are closed. They are their own gods and anyone or anything getting in the way of that has to be destroyed. Too bad the Pharisees let their fear turn to hatred. They leave the synagogue seeking the death of the only One who could save them.

How many times does Jesus ask me to grow in my faith or my living out of my faith and I respond just like the Pharisees? I dig in my heels. I kick and scream, because I feel safe with the status quo. I make fun of or belittle whatever frightens me. I like being master of my little universe, so I don’t enjoy being asked to relinquish control to God. Above all, I ask you to forgive me, Lord, when I turn my back on you and shut you out in this manner.

When you have a few moments, take another look at the Pharisees. Do you see yourself reflected in them in any way? Mirrors seldom lie.