Mark 3, 1-6: Jesus, the Tradition, his death

Mark 3, 1-6 (the Gospel for today) tells of Jesus’ curing of a withered hand. In itself a noteworthy miracle, an expression of good will, of love. But Mark sets the miracle in a context of controversy: ’they’ continued to watch to see if Jesus would cure on the Sabbath, and, once he cured, the Pharisees and Herodians present started planning how they might destroy Jesus. These Pharisees could brook no one who performed on the long-venerated Sabbath any of the works Tradition had come to forbid, including healing. The Herodians, faithful to Roman rule and to Herod Antipas (this all happened in one of his territories, Galilee), feared Jesus would lead an uprising to overthrow Rome (and themselves). Mark wants to present the episode as instigated verbally by Jesus: what is it lawful to do on the Sabbath? His point can be expressed in this way. First, let us call what I did not ’cure’, but ’love of neighbor’. Second, can you really believe that God would prefer that I love my neighbor another day, and not today? Just how important, in the hierarchy of laws and traditions, is love of neighbor? Is any of the Law of Moses superior to love of neighbor? What is God’s mind in this question? As St. Paul says, "Who knows the mind of the Lord?...We have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2, 16). Christians by baptism believe that the mind of Christ is the mind of God. From what we know of Jesus, we know that he thinks that love has its supreme place, even if the price he must pay for loving his neighbor is death. Acts 3, 17 states that ’you and your leaders put Jesus to death in ignorance’. That means to diminish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus, but ultimately implies that only one person knows the mind of God. John Kilgallen, S.J.
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