Todays reading Mk 3:1-6 once again has Jesus in argument with the Pharisees over the Sabbath. Here they wonder if he will cure a man with a withered hand, and Jesus comments “Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” In His first encounter, Jesus mentions a new covenant, in the second he argues the laws, and today He emphasis what really is the fundamental teaching of good versus evil. The Sabbath is after all a day to honor and pay homage to God, to learn of his goodness, and to do battle with the devil. One does have to pause to think of a reason why Jesus would not help someone in need on the Sabbath, and one has to think of what law might have been broken by healing on that day. To my mind the Sabbath itself is a day of healing. The story does show though a bit of why those Pharisees might have been nervous, and it had nothing to do with their God. It had to do with the power they had in society, and their desire to maintain it. The story tells that they are in conspiracy with the Herodians, Jewish citizens and leaders in alliance with King Herod. The battle then becomes a battle between good and evil on that Sabbath day. Jesus chooses the good of healing, the Pharisees choose power and conspiracy. When the Pharisees are asked that question of Sabbath law by Jesus, they are stumped. They know what they should do, and they also know what they want to do. They choose the wrong path, which is a problem of a lot of people in leadership. The struggle is to gain power, and wealth, and prestige, along with maintaining those same three things. They are three things Jesus does not preach in his gospel, He has no conflict between good versus evil. He won that conflict during the temptation in the desert with Satin, and he does not fall into the trap that these Pharisees do either. Nor does he fall into the snare they had set for him. One only has to listen to His beatitudes to understand his position on power and earthly wealth.
Today is also the feast day of Saint Agnes. From American Catholic:
Legend has it that Agnes was a beautiful twelve year old girl whom many young men wanted to marry. Among those she refused, one reported her to the authorities for being a Christian. She was arrested and confined to a house of prostitution. The legend continues that a man who looked upon her lustfully lost his sight and had it restored by her prayer. Agnes was condemned, executed and buried near Rome in a catacomb that eventually was named after her. The daughter of Constantine built a basilica in her honor.
And from Saint Ambrose:
This is a virgin’s birthday; let us follow the example of her chastity. It is a martyr’s birthday; let us offer sacrifices; it is the birthday of holy Agnes: let men be filled with wonder, little ones with hope, married women with awe, and the unmarried with emulation. It seems to me that this child, holy beyond her years and courageous beyond human nature, receives the name of Agnes [Greek: pure] not as an earthly designation but as a revelation from God of what she was to be”