The Pharisees’ Paralysis

Mark 3: 1-6
1 Sm 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51/ Ps 144

“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)


The Pharisees would rather join forces with their enemies, the Herodians, who were 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 did they harbor this hardness of heart? Because the works of our Lord were threatening their all-important positions as spiritual leaders of the people. They were seething with anger 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 paralyzed by the sins of pride, hypocrisy and lack of compassion that there was no longer any hope for them to be reformed.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, let us ask ourselves these questions: Is there any part of my spiritual life that has become paralyzed or has 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 in my community or workplace? 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 our hands out to others — in sharing God’s Word, in praying for the healing of the sick and the dying, and in extending help to the needy. Otherwise, spiritual inactivity will surely lead to a paralyzed faith.

Lord, I would rather have a paralyzed hand than an atrophied heart. Amen.

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