Reflection for Tuesday, March 16, 2021: 4th Week in Lent.
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|"The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath." - John|Jesus was a spirit of the law kind of guy – one of the most important lessons we can carry away from today's reading about the healing of a paralyzed man at Bethesda. |Sure, healing someone on the Sabbath violated the letter of the law but the poor man had been suffering for 38 years. Should Jesus just have cited the rules, apologized and walked away? What if one of us were that man? What would we want Jesus to do?|Letter of the law vs. spirit of the law.|It's been a vexing issue for more than 2,000 years; as someone who instinctively goes overboard on the side of spirit of the law to help people, passages like this delight me. Jesus is on our side! Yay!|The church of my childhood was strictly letter of the law. We girls would put a tissue on our heads before entering a church even if it was just to pay a quick visit. Did you dare attend a Protestant wedding or even a funeral? Had you committed a sin by opening a King James Bible?|Vatican II freed us from a lot of this nonsense, and I rejoice every time Pope Francis says something like "who am I to judge?"|It's easier to be a letter of the law person because you can go strictly by the book. You don't risk suffering any consequences as Jesus did for violating regulations in order to obey the Great Commandments to love God and other people. Saints throughout the ages including our own era have suffered for breaking rules in the name of obeying those greater commandments.|Heroes like Dorothy Day and the late Rep. John Lewis were beaten and jailed for refusing to practice a bland form of Christianity that followed legal rules but never challenged injustice. They spent their lives making "good trouble" at great personal cost, as Jesus did.|Happily, we don't have to face down armed attack at the Edmund Pettus bridge to live the message of today's gospel. I think, for example, of people I know, especially nuns, who help migrants regardless of their legal status. I'm sure that Jesus blesses their work.|We can all find opportunities to respond to the spirit of the law even if it occasionally means fudging on some technical rules if we're willing to risk paying even a small price to claim the label of "Christian."|P.S. For an excellent in-depth discussion of this gospel passage, read Chapter 16 of "Jesus" by Jim Martin S.J., my "Lent book" this year. Ironically I was starting that chapter just as I began this reflection.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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