Paralysis of the Pharisees

Mark 3: 1-6
Heb 7: 1-3 / Psa 110

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” But they remained silent.
(Mark 3:4)

Lack of compassion leads to Pride,
The Pharisees’ paralysis;
But it can never be denied,
Love will heal us of that disease.

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6)


Imagine that. The Pharisees would rather join forces with the Herodians, their enemies (supporters of Rome) than acknowledge the compassion of Jesus for the invalid, and rejoice in the miracle of the man’s restored hand. They would rather plot to kill — on a Sabbath at that — than to investigate further if Jesus was really from God or God Himself. Why were their hearts so hardened? Because the works of our Lord were threatening their all-important positions as spiritual leaders of the people. Because of their envy and pride, their accusation that Jesus was violating the Sabbath by healing was a lame excuse to justify their evil scheme. They were in fact the ones violating this sacred day by plotting an evil deed. Their hearts had become so paralyzed by the sins of hypocrisy and lack of compassion that there was no longer any hope for them to be reformed. They had become morally atrophied.

It is quite strange that nobody in the synagogue spoke up to answer the Lord’s question that doing good and saving a life are indeed lawful on a Sabbath. Nor was a single voice heard praising God for the miracle that Jesus performed.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, let us ask ourselves these questions: Is there any part in my life that has become paralyzed because of inactivity or silence? Has my compassion for the poor and the sick shriveled because of my own selfish concerns? Or have I been mute as if my tongue has become stiff because I fail to proclaim the Word of God? Have I lost my flexibility to change my position when I know I’m in the wrong? Am I content to just close my mind to the truth? Do I at times feel that perhaps my faith has withered, because my prayers have become mechanical, or observing the ‘Sabbath’ (Sunday Mass) has become an obligatory ritual? If most of my answers are “Yes”, then I have become no different from the Pharisees.

Our faith needs to be regularly exercised if it has to be strengthened by the grace of God. We can do this by constantly stretching out to others — in sharing God’s Word, in praying for the healing of the sick and the dying, and in extending helping hands to the needy. Otherwise, spiritual inactivity will surely lead to a paralyzed faith.

Father God, grant me the grace to do my best in helping others in need, as our Lord Jesus has shown in today’s Gospel. I would rather have a paralyzed hand than an atrophied heart. Amen.

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