Stretching Our Faith

Mark 3: 1-6
Heb 7:1-3, 15-17 / Ps 110

“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
(Mark 3: 4)

May Jesus free us from our doubts,
Give us the grace to understand
That until we learn to stretch out,
Our faith is like a withered hand.

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 plot evil with the hated Herodians against Jesus than to accept His miraculous healing of a man’s shriveled hand as an act of God’s mercy. The Herodians were their enemies, as these people were lackeys of the Romans whom the Pharisees regarded as unclean Gentiles. How could they forge this unholy alliance with the Herodians whom they despised? It was because the latter had the authority and power to arrest Jesus if His teachings were proven to be subversive against Rome. But why couldn’t they see the good that Jesus had done in making the deformed person whole again? It was because their prejudice against Jesus had blinded them from seeing the miracle as a good deed; instead, they saw it as a clear violation of their Sabbath law. Their hypocrisy was so obvious when they preferred to remain silent to Jesus’ question: “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

The essence of God’s commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day,” had been lost to the Pharisees because of their blind rage against Jesus. How could they keep this day holy when they had associated themselves with the Herodians who were unclean? Worse of all, they were plotting to commit murder, completely forgetting the fifth commandment of God, on a Sabbath at that. The hearts of the Pharisees had become so shriveled by their sins of pride, hypocrisy, and murder that they had lost any hope of being reformed.

Let us reflect on our life if there is any part that has become paralyzed or atrophied. Has my compassion for the poor and the sick shriveled because of my own selfish concerns? 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 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 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.

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

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