Friends, today’s Gospel shows an angry Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. Whenever the Bible speaks of the divine anger, which it does a lot, it is talking poetically about God’s passion to set things right. God doesn’t go in and out of emotional states. He doesn’t fall into snits. He longs to establish justice on the earth and stands athwart those forces opposed to his purpose. This is precisely what Jesus does toward the Pharisees in today’s Gospel.
The episode concerns the idea of justice. Now, what is justice? I love Plato’s simple definition: justice is rendering to each his due. It is fairness, or, to use more biblical language, “righteousness.” It means doing the right thing. To state it negatively, it is not to cheat, not to take advantage of, not to deny someone his rights.
A steady teaching of the Bible is that God stands for justice and wants us to stand for it too. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” These are words that have inspired social reformers from William Wilberforce to William Lloyd Garrison to Martin Luther King to John Paul II. Let’s reflect on them today.