So the readings that we have today are not meant to be of comfort to the afflicted; rather their intent is to afflict us who have been just a little to comfortable. It seems that the Church at Corinth had enthusiastically accepted Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, but while the cat was away, well, you know the rest. It seems they had become known not so much for their integrity and faithful living of the Gospel, so much as for their degenerate actions, actions that apparently would have made the pagans blush. Paul, as the father of their community, comes down on them pretty harshly, and well does he do so, so as to save them from the fires of hell.
In the Gospel reading, we see those scribes and Pharisees once again on the lookout for anything they can use to discredit and condemn Jesus. They know that the man’s withered hand would not be something Jesus the healer could overlook. So Jesus asks them if it is okay to do nothing on the Sabbath and so let evil continue to reign, or would it be better to actually do some good, to actually reach out in compassion to bind up the broken and heal the sick? One would think the call for true justice would stir somewhere in their hardened hearts, but obviously their penchant for legalism allows them to use the letter of the law to condemn the One who came to manifest the spirit of the law.
So if we feel a little uncomfortable having heard the proclamation of these readings, they we certainly have experienced them in the spirit they were offered. The Liturgy of the Word today calls us to look at our own lives and root out everything that is contrary to the Gospel. In the quiet places of our day today, a rather honest examination of conscience would do wonders for our lives of faith.
It is the Psalmist today who allows us to pray that we might not fall into the traps of degeneration, apathy and self-righteousness: “Lead me to your justice, Lord.” Lead us to your justice, indeed. Help us to live lives of integrity that proclaim the Kingdom of God with its call to repentance. Help us to remember that Sabbath rest is supposed to strengthen us for Gospel service. Help us to embrace the spirit of the law by loving others as you love us. Lead us to your justice, Lord.