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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Is it Lawful to Heal on the Sabbath?

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

A Meditation on St. Luke 14:1-11

At that time, when Jesus entered the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to take food, they watched Him. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath? But they remained silent. And He took and healed him and let him go. Then addressing them, He said, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him up on the Sabbath? And they could give Him no answer to these things. But He also spoke a parable to those invited, observing how they were choosing the first places at table, and He said to them, When you are invited to a wedding feast, do not recline in the first place, lest perhaps one more distinguished than you have been invited by him, and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Make room for this man’; and then you begin with shame to take the last place. But when you are invited go and recline in the last place; that when he who invited you comes in, he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher!’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who are at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Luke 14:3) This is the question Jesus asks of the lawyers and Pharisees, and the answer would seem to be self-evident. But the lawyers and Pharisees hold their tongues and remain silent; they, in effect, refuse to answer Jesus. They know that mercy on the Sabbath is never illegal, but they choke on their own pride which will not allow them to admit it.

Their desire is “to go around in long robes,” to receive “greetings in the marketplaces,” to take “the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts.” (Luke 20:46). The Pharisees are pumped up with self-esteem and self-righteousness and they will go to hell rather than be humbled before God. And so it has been for all of human history.

Look at our first parents, Adam and Eve. They had all paradise could offer: three square meals a day, temperate weather every day, the kind that many of you travel hundreds of miles each year to maintain. There was no disease, no aging, and no death. The Book of Genesis tells us that they even walked with God Himself, in the cool of the day. Yes, they had everything, but everything wasn’t enough for them. They didn’t just want to walk with God; they wanted to be God. That, my friends, is what pride will do. You see, pride is never satisfied. It is never really happy.

Today it is easy to look back at the Pharisees and wag our fingers and wonder at their ignorance. It is just as easy to blame Adam and Eve for their pride, perhaps even more so. Sinful pride consumed them. But are we any better than they were? Are we truly humble? St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says: “Take heed lest you fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

In our foolishness, pride seeks the best seat at the banquet, looking to grab it before someone else is seated there first. Pride rushes to the head of the new line at the grocery check-out without a thought for the people who were waiting there long before. Pride looks to show off. Pride lives for glory and recognition. Pride seeks the advantage over others. Pride seeks power over others. Pride sulks over imagined hurts and slights and refuses to be reconciled until it is stroked. But remember the Book of Proverbs says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, NKJV)

Pride is a sin with which we all wrestle. Today let us all repent and give thanks to God that it is indeed lawful to be healed on the Sabbath, for that is, in truth, what He wishes to do at each Mass in the worthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament. Christ the Divine Physician heals all our wounds and draws us close to his Most Sacred Heart. As St. Irenaus says: “The Eucharist is medication for the soul.”


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