Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 8:12-17; Luke 13:10-17)
People are horrified when they hear of Jehovah Witness parents refusing to allow their child to receive a blood transfusion that would save the child’s life. But Jehovah Witnesses are just interpreting an Old Testament proscription of partaking of the blood of another (Leviticus 17:10). In the gospel today the leader of the synagogue takes a comparable position as he chastises the people for coming to Jesus to be cured on the Sabbath.
Jesus obviously does not interpret the Scriptures quite so stringently. We should note that in this case the issue is whether Scriptures allow anyone to cure – which is a form of work – on the Sabbath. The Book of Exodus calls for “complete rest” or “be put to death" (Exodus 31:14). Yet we should not think of Jesus as a free-thinker. One commentator says that Jesus takes a “commonsense approach to Sabbath observance” that allows peasants to keep their farm animals and the poor to be relieved of suffering.
“Then why does the Church forbid abortion in cases where mother and baby are likely to die if a pregnancy is allowed to continue?” some will ask. It is a very difficult question that does refer to real, although rare, situations. The answer lies in abiding by Jesus’ injunction against doing evil (as in Matthew 5:39). The difference between the abortion case and the one in the gospel today is that it involves directly taking an innocent human life, which is always forbidden. It should be noted that intervention to save the mother that does not involve the direct killing of the fetus is generally permitted.