262. The Man with the Withered Hand.

26th August 1945. prev home next

Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum, which slowly becomes crowded with believers, because it is Sabbath. Everybody is greatly surprised seeing Him. They all point to Him whispering and some pull the tunic of this or that apostle asking when they came back to town, because nobody knew that they were back.

« We landed at the “fig well” coming from Bethsaida, to avoid taking one step more than is prescribed, my friend » replies Peter to Uriah, the Pharisee, who, feeling offended at being called « friend » by a fisherman, goes away disdainfully and joins his peers in the first row.

« Don't tease them, Simon! » warns Andrew.

« Tease them? He asked me a question and I replied saying also that we avoided walking to respect the Sabbath. »

« They will say that we worked in the boat...»

« They will end up by saying that we worked by breathing! Fool! It's the boat, the wind and the waves that work, not us who sail in the boat. »

Andrew accepts the reprimand and becomes silent.

After the preliminary prayers it is time to read a passage and explain it. The head of the synagogue asks Jesus to do so, but Jesus points to the Pharisees saying: « Let them do it. » But as they do not wish to comply, He is compelled to speak.

Jesus reads a passage from the first Book of the Kings, which tells how David was betrayed by the men of Ziph, who informed Saul that he was at Gibeah. Jesus hands the roll back and begins to speak.

« It is always evil to infringe the precepts of charity, hospitality and honesty. But man does not hesitate to do so with utmost indifference. We have here a double episode of such infringement and the consequent punishment of God. The behaviour of the men of Ziph was deceitful. Saul's was equally so. The former were mean in their intention of getting into the graces of the stronger of the two. The latter was vile in the intention of getting rid of the Lord's anointed. They were thus united by their selfishness. And the false sinful king of Israel dares to give a reply to the base proposal mentioning the Lord: “May you be blessed by the Lord.”

Derision of God's Justice! Habitual derision! Too often the Name of the Lord and His blessing are invoked as a reward or guarantee for man's wickedness. It is written: “You shall not utter the Name of God in vain.” And can there be anything more vain, or rather, more wicked than uttering it to commit a crime against one's neighbour? And yet it is a sin that is more frequent than any other, committed with indifference also by those who are always the first in the meetings of the Lord, in ceremonies and teaching. Remember that it is a sin to investigate, take notice and prepare everything to damage one's neighbour. It is also a sin to make other people investigate, take notice and prepare everything so that other people may injure one's neighbour. It implies inducing others to sin by tempting them with rewards or threatening them with retaliation.

I warn you that it is a sin. I warn you that such behaviour is selfishness and hatred. And you are aware that hatred and selfishness are enemies of love. I am warning you because I am anxious about your souls. Because I love you. Because I do not want you to be in sin. Because I do not want you to be punished by God as happened to Saul, whose country was destroyed by the Philistines, while he was chasing David to capture him and kill him. I solemnly tell you that that will always happen to those who harm their neighbours. Their victory will last as long as the grass of a meadow. It will come up quickly, but it will soon be dry and trodden on by the foot of indifferent passers-by. Whereas good behaviour and honest life seem to find it hard to grow and assert themselves. But once they are perfected as habits of life they become strong leafy trees, which no hurricane can uproot or dog-days parch. Really, he who is faithful to the Law, truly faithful, becomes a strong tree, which is not bent by passions nor burnt by Satan's fire.

I have finished. If there is anyone who wishes to say something, let him do so. »

« We ask You whether You have spoken referring to us Pharisees. »

« Is the synagogue perhaps full of Pharisees? You are four, and there are hundreds of people. My word was for everybody. »

« But the allusion was clear. »

« Really, it has never been known that a man accuses himself only because suspicion is thrown on him by a parallel! But that is what you are doing. Why do you accuse yourselves if I do not accuse you? Are you aware of behaving as I said? I am not. But if you are, mend your ways. Because man is weak and may sin. And God forgives him if he sincerely repents and wants to sin no more. But to persist in evil is double sin for which there is no forgiveness. »

« We have not committed such sin. »

« Well, do not grieve over My words. »

The argument is over. And the singing of hymns fills the synagogue. The meeting seems to be on the point of winding up without any further incident, when Joachim, the Pharisee, sees a man in the crowd and beckons to him to go to the first row. The man is about fifty years old and has an atrophic arm and as atrophy has destroyed his muscles, also his hand is affected and is smaller than the other one.

Jesus sees him. And He notices the bustle to draw His attention to him. There is a flashing but very clear sign of disgust and pity on His face. But He does not ward off the blow. On the contrary He faces the situation resolutely.

« Come here, in the middle » He orders the man. And when the man is before Him, Jesus turns to the Pharisees and says: « Why do you tempt Me? Have I not just finished speaking of snares and hatred? And have you not just now said: “We have not such sin”? Are you not replying to Me? Answer at least this: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? Is it lawful to save life or to kill? Are you not replying? I will reply in your place and in the presence of all the people, who will be able to judge better than you do, because they are simple and free from hatred and pride. It is not lawful to do any work on the Sabbath. But as it is lawful to pray, so it is lawful to do good, because good is even a greater prayer than the hymns and psalms which we have sung. But neither on the Sabbath nor on any other days is it lawful to do evil. And you have done just that by intriguing to have here this man who is not even from Capernaum and was brought here two days ago, as you knew that I was at Bethsaida and you guessed that I would be coming to My town. And you have done that to see if you can find something to use against Me. And thus you commit also the sin of killing your souls instead of saving them. But, as far as I am concerned, I forgive you and I will not disappoint the faith of this man, whom you told to come saying that I would cure him, whereas you wanted to lay a snare for Me. He is innocent because He came here with no other intention but to be cured. And be it so. Man: stretch out your hand and go in peace. »

The man obeys and his hand is cured and is like the other one. He makes use of it at once by taking the hem of Jesus' mantle to kiss it saying: « You know that I was not aware of their true intentions. Had I known, I would not have come, as I would have preferred to keep my withered hand, rather than serve against You. So have no grudge against me. »

« Go in peace, man. I know the truth and with regard to you I assure you of My good will. »

The crowd go out making comments, and Jesus comes out last with His eleven apostles.

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