The Pharisees’ Shriveled Faith

Mark 3: 1-6
Heb 7:1-3,15-17 / 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 the Pharisees 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)


The hatred of the Pharisees towards Jesus had reached such a boiling point that they decided to join forces with the Herodians, their enemies who supported Rome. They refused to acknowledge an act of compassion for the invalid, nor a miraculous deed that only a supernatural being could perform. They could not even 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 this hardness of heart? Because the works of our Lord were threatening their all-important positions as spiritual leaders of the people. Because of their 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 hardened by the sins of pride, hypocrisy and lack of compassion that they had turned their backs on any hope to be reformed.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, let us ask ourselves these questions: Is there any part in my life that has hardened or atrophied? Has my compassion for the poor and the sick shriveled because of my own selfish concerns? Or do I remain silent 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?

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 extending our hands in prayer for the healing of the sick and the dying, as well as in extending helping hands to the needy. Otherwise, spiritual inactivity will surely lead to a paralyzed faith.

Lord, I would rather have a withered hand than an atrophied heart. Grant that I will never lose compassion and mercy towards the afflicted and the needy, as they are as much Your children as we are, therefore they are our brothers and sisters too. Amen.

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