By Dr. Kathy Coffey-Guenther, senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist
Mark 3: 1-6 (NRSV)
“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent.
He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”
In today’s reading we encounter a familiar scene of Jesus entering the synagogue, and once again finding someone who needs healing, care, belief and cure. And just beyond this man, we notice that we again find Jesus in tension with the “powers that be.”
These powers have been alerted to the fact that Jesus is not following the rule of law as he should. Instead, he is staying present and available to the people who need love and kindness and advocacy and healing and cure and resources.
Instead of sticking to the clean black-and-white straight lines of the rules and laws of the day, Jesus is jumping right into the mess of the grey, where the needs of the people and their call to him for love and service and justice moves him deeply. The people’s call to Jesus’ heart and spirit is one that brings grief, anger, and danger with it.
Jesus names this dilemma clearly: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?”
Choosing to amend or reject a rule or law or to go against power is neither an easy nor superficial decision. It requires discernment in which we can gain clarity about the choices before us, and in which we can learn to choose the “greater good” of those choices.
While the law may be good, Jesus demonstrates that presence, availability and love for the person before us may be the greatest good of all, regardless of the consequences.