Homilette for Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and martyr

(Hebrews 7:1-3.15-17; Mark 3:1-6)

The man was lying in a hospital bed depressed. He had been diagnosed with cancer and was not sure whether he was going to live much longer. He was also unsure of his relationship with God. He was not attending mass on Sunday because, he said, he was often busy. Was that a sufficient reason or perhaps it was only an excuse for a lifetime of neglecting his God?

In today’s gospel the Pharisees bring to fore a similar issue of Sabbath observance. They want to condemn Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Is that legitimate work on a Sabbath or is doing any work beyond sheer emergency on the holy day a way to mask one’s denial of God’s sovereignty?

Jesus will reveal the contradiction lodged like an embolism in the Pharisees’ hearts. He poses them the question, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Then he restores the ability of the handicapped person to use his hand; meanwhile, the Pharisees begin to plot Jesus’ death on the same Sabbath.

We should see the Sabbath as a gift from God so that we might do good. Giving praise to God is the highest good. Also taking a day to rest and recreate is another appropriate good for the Sabbath. If it is necessary, we might also work on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. But we must take care that the labor is truly required and not pursued out of greed or, worse, to mask our neglect of God.