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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sabbath Obligations

“'Do you want to be well?' The sick man answered him, 'Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.' Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your mat, and walk.'” Jn 7: 6-9

Although modern translations of the New Testament do not always mention that the waters were stirred by an angel, many early manuscripts insist that the first person to enter the waters after the angel stirred them would be cured, and this is the context of today's reading. Jesus comes upon a sick person who, because has no help, cannot reach the waters after they are stirred. But as he often does, Jesus asks the man if he wants to be well. Although the question seems strange to us, it is important. Jesus is not asking the fellow if he wants to be cured but if he wants to be well.

Simply because one is cured does not mean they will be well. In a Jewish context, being well means living the Torah fully and returning to its study and lifestyle. Using the sick man as an example, the Lord is asking all of his listeners, and that includes us, whether they want to know God more deeply and live a spiritual life. If their answer is yes, Jesus can and will will help, and it does not matter that it is a Sabbath.

Challenging the interpretation of the Torah, not the law itself, Jesus confronts the Pharisees with what has become a punitive and burdensome spin on a Jew's obligation to keep the Sabbath. There is no doubt that we need a body of law that helps us live the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel, but we must always beware of making the law of God so difficult to live that good people stop trying. Jesus trusts his listeners and encourages them to be responsible agents of their own faith growth. He does the same for us.

Today, treat those struggling with how to live the Gospel authentically with the compassion of Jesus.

 What does it mean to live your faith as a responsible adult?

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