Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 6:6-11)
In 1793 the French revolutionary government tried to change the number of days in a week. Ostensibly for scientific reasons France adopted a calendar with ten hour days and ten-day weeks. Predictably the people had a hard time adjusting. One problem was the difficulty in changing frames of reference – an hour of the old system became less than a half of the new hour. There was also resentment over having to work three extra days each week to arrive at the day of rest. First a six-day and now a five-day work week is generally considered as more than enough time on the job for the normal person. Yet Jesus does not hesitate to make an exception to that rule in today’s gospel.
The Pharisees see their role as guarding the Mosaic Law from any abuse. They take particular concern over the Sabbath rest. As much as they prevent managers from overworking their workers and the laborer from neglecting duties to God and community, they perform a valuable service. But most rules have exceptions. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees when they do not consider healing an invalid on the Sabbath as such a case.
Incidentally, healing may not have been as easy as the gospel relates. Jesus may have had to massage the stricken body part or, in the case of possession, spend hours dispelling the malicious spirit. In any event he does it not to defy the Law but to show the power of God working through him to save us. We have today, Labor Day, as well as every Sunday to relax and thank God for His goodness.