Mercy on the Sabbath

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them, “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question.

Luke 14:1-6

As one man’s swelling was reduced,
Angry, swollen pride was educed.

This couplet was inspired by St. Gregory the Great who wrote: “Rightly then is the dropsical man healed in the Pharisees’ presence, for by the bodily infirmity of the one, is expressed the mental disease of the other.”

Dropsy (edema) caused swelling in the tissues or in a body cavity by an accumulation of watery fluid. The word dropsy comes from Greek hudrōps (hudro-, water + ōps, face). 

At the home of a leading Pharisee and in the presence of the religious elite, Jesus fearlessly reached out to the weak and powerless. By worldly standards, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Instead of conforming with the agenda of the powerful and seizing the opportunity to gain their favor, he chose to lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus lay down his life again and again with every act of healing and speaking the truth until he was finally crucified.

Jesus chose mercy, justice, and love at every turn. His Father’s will always prevailed over social and political pressure.

St. Cyril of Alexandria reflected: “For it becomes us, when a great good is the result, not to care if fools take offense.”

Related post:

The Law of Mercy

2 Replies to “Mercy on the Sabbath”

    1. Thank you. Psalm 91 also expresses well the Lord’s providential care:

      He will shelter you with his pinions,
      and under his wings you may take refuge;
      his faithfulness is a protecting shield.
      Psalm 91:4

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