Monday, September 6, 2021


LUKE 6:6-11

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up and stand before us.”
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

Our gospel reading is from the gospel of Luke. I love the gospel of Luke for many reasons – mainly because it is the gospel with the most details, it is the gospel for the Gentiles, it is the gospel of prayer, it is the gospel of women, it is the gospel that speaks the most of praising God and it is the gospel of the universality of God’s.

We see Luke’s propensity for detail. A doctor himself, he lets us know right off the bat that it was the man’s right hand, something that neither Matthew nor Mark mentions in their accounts. One of the apocryphal gospels says that he was a stone mason who comes to Jesus for a cure because he did not want to have to beg for his bread, but to work for it.

We see even more of Luke’s propensity for detail. As he tells the story, he mentions several pertinent details: it was the Sabbath, Jesus was there to teach, there was a man there with a withered right hand, the Scribes and Pharisees “watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath.”

Luke tells us that Jesus realized their evil intentions and defiantly calls the man up and tells him to stand there in front of everybody. Jesus, we are told, looked around at all of his enemies and said, defiantly, “Stretch out your hand!”  With that the man’s hand was restored! The response from the Scribes and Pharisees, Luke tells us, is that they were “enraged,” very much “enraged,” and “discussed together what they might do to Jesus.”

It is important to remember just why  they were enraged! They were not enraged because Jesus healed the poor man’s hand. They were “enraged” because it did it on the Sabbath. They considered healing as “work” and “work” was forbidden on the Sabbath day of rest. Instead of rejoicing that a poor man had his hand healed, had his job back and had his dignity as a worker restored, they were upset because they loved their rules and regulations more than they loved the reason for those rules - God himself.

Sisters and brothers, here is the simple lesson for us today. As an organized religion, we need rules and regulations, but there is an ever-present danger that we all have in organized religion – the danger of putting loyalty to the system above loyalty to God, making secondary things essential and essential things secondary. I learned this lesson in a most memorable way from Cardinal Collins of Toronto, Canada.

I led his priest retreat in the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, a few years ago. I did half of the priests one week and the other half the following week – about 900 priests in total.  Cardinal Collins was there listening both weeks. Well, he really liked what I had to say, so he asked if I would come back next year and give what I just gave to the priests to the seminarians of Saint Augustine Seminary. When I agreed, he asked me if I would give the priest retreat the following year.  That would mean that I would be giving retreats in Toronto for five weeks over two years and he would have to personally listen to me for four weeks himself!

To test his sincerity, I told him I would come back the following year if he would come to Saint Meinrad, where I was working, and lead a prayer day. I thought that would give me an escape from writing another set of retreat talks. To my shock and surprise, he said, “I’d love to!

He came to St. Meinrad that Fall and led the Day of Prayer to open the school year. During that day, during the question and answer time, one of the seminarians asked about making Holy Hours. Cardinal Collins paused a moment and said, “Yes, I believe that making a Holy Hour is a very, very important discipline for priests and seminarians alike! He repeated his words for emphasis. Then he paused for a few seconds and said, “But… but if someone is dying in the hospital during your Holy Hour and you get called, forget your Holy Hour and go to the Hospital!” There was an audible gasp from all those pious little seminarians! He made the very same point Jesus is making in today’s gospel – sometimes, there are a few things more important than even pious disciplines and religious rules!


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