We have heard in the today’s Gospel reading about the healing of a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years. The work of mercy performed in the synagogue on a Sabbath made the Pharisees murmur, and at the same time served as an occasion for the Savior to clarify the true intent behind the holiday, the day dedicated to God.
The formalistic Pharisees grumbled. They believed that their pious behavior, which was manifested by their formal observance of the Law of Moses, made them entitled to God. The Pharisees squeezed the immensity of God’s Love into their religious teachings and reduced it to their limited scope. The Pharisee teachers developed a sophisticated and meticulous casuistry related to the Sabbath. That’s why the chief of the synagogue was outraged: “There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Pharisees’ attitude towards the holidays was severely denounced by the prophet Isaiah. “Listen to the word of the Lord,” Isaiah said, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Christ also rose up against the Pharisees’ rigoristic formalism. “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath,” Jesus declared. “Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” Jesus called the chief of the synagogue a hypocrite, and the Savior ranks mercy as the highest priority.
What is a holiday for us, Christians? Every holiday is the day of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the Lord said, Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation (I reiterate: holy!) … ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. (Leviticus 23). This is an eternal decree.
Do you hear, my friends, what is the Lord calling us to? Humble your souls on the holidays! The apostle Paul admonishes us in the New Testament, Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Thus, on the day of the Lord, on the church feasts, in addition to leisure from work, it is necessary to ascend to the Light with double zeal, to ascend to God assiduously and fervently. How can we do it, you may ask. Through personal and public prayer at church as well as through works of love and mercy. I want mercy, not sacrifice, the Lord says. These words of the Lord must resonate with particular intensity and insistence in the minds and hearts of Christians during the holidays.
Therefore, may every Christian, on the days of the Lord, hurry to the church for the common prayer, and may he commit himself to conversations about faith and godliness in his family, and may he also direct his footsteps to those who are sick and suffering. Amen.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds