Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil? To save a life of to kill? Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, being pro life means not spreading a virus.
I wrote yesterday about the sense of loss I feel because my archbishop has ended public celebrations of the mass through Easter. What I didn’t say — what I SHOULD have said — is that I fully support him in this action.
Let me say that again: I fully support my archbishop and the other bishops who are temporarily halting the public celebration of the mass in their dioceses. They are doing this to save lives and stop the spread of the coronavirus. That is a noble cause.
I am behind them 100%.
They are not doing the right thing. They are doing the only thing.
Jesus Himself talked about whether it is more important to save a life or to honor the Sabbath. He was, ironically enough, in the synagogue. It was the Sabbath.
Jesus saw a man with a shriveled hand. The Scriptures do not say that the man asked Jesus to heal him. They say that Jesus saw the man and asked him to stand up. I think Jesus was making a point.
The religious poseurs of His day “were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath.” It’s possible, at least by the way that sounds, that these haters had made sure the man with the shriveled hand was there in front of Jesus. They might have put the man there to try to get Jesus to heal on the Sabbath so that they could accuse Him.
Whatever the situation, whether it was a set up or not, Jesus clearly saw it as a teachable moment. He told the man to stand up. Then He asked the salient question.
Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good, or to do evil? To save a life or to kill?
Scripture says that Jesus was angry with His wannabe accusers, that he was grieved by their indifference to the man’s suffering and their hardness of heart.
He told the man, Stretch out your hand. And the hand was completely healed.
According to Scripture, the Pharisees who had set this up then “went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Him.”
Which is lawful on the Sabbath, Jesus asked, to do good or to do evil? To save a life or to kill?
That question applies directly to what the bishops are doing today. Which is lawful on the Sabbath? To continue to hold public masses and spread a virus which is especially deadly to the elderly worshippers who are the most likely to show up, or to cancel mass for a couple of weeks to help stop the virus?Is it holier to save a life or to posture and preen about your holiness and how devout you are and spread a virus that kills over 20% of the older people it infects? I believe without question that the holy and right thing, the Jesus thing, is for the bishops to do their part in the face of this crisis and tell people to stay home and pray the Rosary.
The right thing, the holy thing — the Jesus thing — is always to do whatever you can to save lives.
If you can save a life, then save that life.
Catholic Pharisees love to blather and blither about being pro life. They especially like to use the phrase “pro life” to verbally attack and batter other people into submitting to their commands about political questions.
But actually saving lives, especially when saving lives requires them to do things that are (a) difficult and laborious for them personally, (b) cost them money, (c) run counter to their fealty to the right-wing funders who pour monies into their “ministries,” is not so high on their list.
Don’t be like them. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees.
If you would truly follow Jesus, then save lives whenever and however you can. Be humble enough to accept the trials of this situation. Offer them up for the people in Purgatory.
Lent is a time when people ordinarily “give up” idiotic things like bubble gum or Diet Coke as pretend penances for their sins. But the real penances are not those foolish things we chose for ourselves. The real penances come directly from God as part of being alive in this world.
Cancer is a penance. Heart attacks are a penance. Losing your job is a penance. Telling the truth when it gets you in trouble, getting up at night with a sick baby, suffering with unjust treatment, being lied and gossiped about, losing your friends for following Jesus: These are the penances of real life.
Our penance this Lent is a penance for the whole world. We must endure the fears of dread potentialities of this virus and economic upheavals. We must be close to Jesus without the easy graces of the Eucharist.
We must chose to save lives by staying away from mass and not making a big fuss about it.
Don’t be like the Pharisees. Don’t argue with the bishops about this. Certainly don’t condemn them.
Be humble enough to accept and believe that this is your part.
Your part is to support your bishop in this.
Your part is to pray daily for an end to this virus.
Your part is to enjoy this time at home and make the most of it.
Your part is to offer up the not-so-terrible sufferings of this time for those in Purgatory.
Your part is to help save lives by foregoing the mass on the Sabbath for a short while.
This is your penance. It is your Lent.
Do it, and be grateful. It is always a gift to be able to save lives.