From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you,constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God's grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insightto help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless,having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
I will thank the Lord with all my heart
in the meeting of the just and their assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
to be pondered by all who love them. (R./)
Majestic and glorious his work,
his justice stands firm for ever.
He makes us remember his wonders.
The Lord is compassion and love. (R./)
He gives food to those who fear him;
keeps his covenant ever in mind.
He has shown his might to his people
by giving them the lands of the nations. (R./)
One sabbath day Jesus went to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal, and they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, "Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?" But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?" And they could not reply to this.
There are inspiring, loving responses in today's readings. The letter to the Philippians demonstrates the warm affection of Paul for his converts, and the Gospel shows the loving mercy of Jesus for the ailing man, despite the carping of his critics.
Paul writes very warmly to Philippi, certainly his favourite church. He rambles on quite informally, an unusual style for a public letter. "I think of you constantly. I hold all of you dear. I long for each of you with the affection of Christ Jesus." He was not just some Stoical ascetic, a zealous, theologian and administrator. He was much more, even if his love of argument appears at times. As a warm-hearted person, he could not be indifferent to others. But even as he praises them, he wants them to keep up their high standards. "I give thanks to my God .. for the way you have all helped promote the gospel from the very first day." Later he will urge them, "my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way." (4:1)
While today's gospel ends as a conflict, it's all about the love and confidence between the two central characters, Jesus and the sick man. What hope and prayer must have filled poor man's mind, as he sat there suffering from dropsy, a swelling that is medically called oedema. The poor man says nothing while Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, "Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?" Saint Luke adds, "At this they kept silent," but the silence was loaded with hostility.
Jesus was risking his reputation in the eyes of influential people for the sake of an unnamed sick man, who is not mentioned again after his cure. He was healed and sent on his way, no doubt full of joy at his recovery. Like the Lord, we must try to do the right thing no matter what it costs.
He was sitting at a meal at which other Pharisees and other devout folk were also present. Maybe the man with the open wound was deliberately brought in as a way of entrapment, to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath. A sick person would not normally have been there as a guest. But Jesus was more than happy to take the bait, if that is what it was. He immediately healed the man and sent him on his way.
What should we learn from this? While being in other ways religious, some people show little respect for others theri hour of need. Our Lord's outlook is always to treat others with love and respect regardless of the circumstances. We are called to take our lead from him; his way of relating to others must be ours too, and it can be with the help of the Holy Spirit that he pours into our hearts. That's in line with what Paul says about the "goodness Christ Jesus produces in us for the glory of God."