Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
To sound hyperbolic is not my intention. At the same time I can’t deny the fact that the readings of the day took me by surprise. To me, I must confess that they seem to contradict each other. While the gospel passage seems to overlook a prescribed law, the first reading seems to introduce a new law and enforcing it rather firmly!
However, it all made sense to me the moment I came across an analogy that goes quite parallel to today’s readings – the analogy of the speed limits prescribed by the traffic rules. Depending on the condition and the width of the roads, the number of lanes, the acute turns that lay ahead of us and many other factors, speed limits are set to be stringently followed. The purpose of it is to avoid accidents, for the safety of those accessing the roads – it’s basically to save lives. But even these stringent rules are suspended for ambulances and other conveyances that race against time plying these same roads to get casualties and critical patients to hospitals at the earliest. Guess why? To save lives!
What matters is that the purpose of the law is served. And if the law itself becomes a hindrance to its purpose, then the law ought to be overridden. How about that being a law? That’s where exceptions come to play.
Same is the case with today’s gospel message. Jesus healed the paralytic on the Sabbath in spite of the laws forbidding it. The 3rd commandment (Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy) was made more cumbersome with auxiliary and ancillary rules, thanks to the scribes and the Pharisees. All that God intended was that his chosen people observe the Sabbath in a manner that honours Him and Him only. Nothing more.
As for the paralytic, his healing could only help him to observe the Sabbath in a more worthy manner and in no way compromises its sanctity. As such, Jesus does not hesitate to breech the prevailing man-made customs, that the God-given commandment could be observed.
In the case of the Corinthians, Paul, in a way, prescribes a law to condemn and purge the person who took as his wife his own stepmother – a crime unprecedented even among the pagans! Not that he is sentenced beyond redemption, but is punished that his soul might be saved, that the community be deterred from such a crime, that their pride in considering themselves as ideal Christians be curtailed. Corinth, though an affluent port-city was of questionable repute because of immorality. It is these people who reveled in mortal sins that Paul invited to repent and embrace Christianity through a simple rite of baptism. Paul, who wanted them to avail God’s mercy, to introduce them to God’s benevolence through the most benevolent means, could not chastise the person any lesser, since he wasted God’s mercy in a manner most despicable.
Having said that, is there a law with no exceptions, a law that’s universal no matter what? Should there be such a law, it is this – the law of LOVE – love for God and love for one’s neighbour – the GOLDEN RULE of Jesus.