Jesus was in constant trouble with the Scribes and Pharisees. They feared him; he was eroding their power base. They were jealous of Jesus. So, they had a mission. Their mission was to discredit Jesus, to catch him breaking one of the more than six hundred laws, rules, and regulations the Jews had at the time. As Jesus repeatedly told the Scribes and Pharisees, many of the rules were picayune.
Here was Jesus’ rule, and it should be ours as well. Never break GOD’s law. But, when it comes to the rules and regulations MAN makes, follow them if they help us observe God’s laws. Otherwise, if the rules and regulations get in the way of lovingly serving another, set them aside. Let me give you an example. Jesus was in a synagogue on the Sabbath. He saw a man with a withered hand. He had compassion for the man. So, even though the Scribes and Pharisees were watching everyone one of his moves, hoping to catch him breaking a rule, Jesus healed the man. The Scribes and Pharisees became enraged, and it was at that point they started planning to have Jesus killed.
Why did Jesus heal the man, even though it was the Sabbath? Did he want to show up the Scribes and Pharisees? No. Of course not. Jesus healed the man because he needed healing and Jesus could give it. He healed the man because Jesus was filled with compassion. He wanted to give the man an opportunity to work, to provide for his family and himself. Still, it was the Sabbath. Couldn’t Jesus have waited a day? Once again, the answer is no. Jesus was teaching us a lesson. Never say “tomorrow.” When we have an opportunity to lovingly serve, perhaps heal someone, do it. Right now!
Here’s an adaption of an ancient fable. Brother Benedict was celebrating his 94th birthday. He gave thanks to God for giving him much time and many graces to serve his spiritual brothers and sisters. There was, though, a touch of sadness in Brother Benedict. For 80 years, he had prayed that God would allow his son, Jesus, to visit him. Every birthday, Brother Benedict would intensify his request. That morning, he had spent two hours on his knees begging for the favor of a vision. Brother knew his health was rapidly failing. There probably would not be a 95th birthday.
It was after dinner. It was time to say his evening prayers. Brother Benedict went to the chapel. No sooner had he knelt, Jesus appeared. Brother whispered, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said, “My brother Benedict, I have come to give you a great piece of wisdom.” At that moment, a bell rang, signaling someone in need was at the front gate of the monastery. Brother Benedict was in a quandary. Should he answer the bell? After all, the son of God was before him, fulfilling 80 years of prayer and hope. Brother Benedict looked at Jesus with great love. He said, “My Lord, I have work to do.”
Brother Benedict spent the next three hours harvesting vegetables from the monastery garden and making a pot of vegetable soup for a hungry family of five. He got back to the chapel shortly before ten that night. Jesus was gone. But, there was a handwritten note on the altar. It read, “Benedict, you live the wisdom I came to give you. Serve the needy. Always! Right now! Regardless of circumstances! Seen you soon in heaven, my brother.”
The spiritual questions of the month for us are these. Are we serving the needy? Do we do it in the moment an opportunity presents itself, as Jesus and Brother Benedict did? Or, do we procrastinate, often forgetting the person in need?
My sisters and brothers, let’s fine tune our hearts. When the needy ask, let’s always respond in the moment, “How may I help you?”