On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
“…Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” In this question, there is no neutral option. Jesus knows that healing the man is taboo, but makes a pointed choice to do it anyway, despite the expectant onlookers waiting to catch him breaking the rules. Beyond that, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that restoring the man’s health is the right thing to do.
On this feast day of St. Peter Claver, SJ, I am reminded of the ways in which Peter Claver’s life was a response to this call from Jesus to reject unjust societal norms in the name of what’s right. The Jesuit saint who ministered to slaves arriving in America and called for the abolition of slavery knew he could not remain neutral. In what ways can Peter Claver’s life be an example to us of how to courageously choose the side of righteousness?
—Christine Dragonette is the Director of Social Ministry at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis.
O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves
and strengthened him with wonderful charity and patience
as he came to their help,
grant, through his intercession,
that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ,
we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
—USCCB materials for a prayer service on the feast of St. Peter Claver
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