I remembered an impressive story told by Saji Anthony as I was reflecting on the gospel of today. I thought that it could help transmit the lesson from the encounter between Jesus on the one hand and the Pharisees, the scribes and a man with a withered hand on the other.
A mother asked her little girl what the most important part of the body was. In her innocence she thought that sound was very important to human beings and answered, “My ears, Mommy!” The mother said, “No, sweetie! But keep thinking. I will ask you again soon.” After several years, she asked her again. The little girl made her second attempt and answered, “Mommy, sight is very important to everybody, so it must be our eyes.”
The mother looked at her tenderly and replied, “You are learning fast, but the answer is not correct”. The little girl continued in her quest for the correct answer and after a few more years the mother asked a couple of times more. Her response to her daughter’s answers would be, “No, darling, but you are getting smarter every year!”
Then one year, the little girl’s grandfather died. There was a great sorrow in the family and everybody was crying. She even saw her father crying. Her mom looked at her when it was their turn to say their final good-bye to grandpa and asked her, “Don’t you know the most important part of the body part yet, my dear!” She was shocked when she asked her this question at that point in time. She had always believed it was a game between mother and daughter. When the mother saw the confusion in her face, she told her, “This question is very important. It shows that you have really lived in your life. For every body part you gave as the answer in the past, I have told you was wrong. But today is the day you need to learn this important lesson.”
She looked down at her as only a mother could and said, “My dear, the most important part of the body is your shoulder.” “Is it because it holds my head?” the little girl asked. “No!” She replied. “It is because it can hold the head of a friend or a loved one when they cry. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on sometime in life, my dear. I only hope that you have enough love and friends that will always have a shoulder to cry on when you need it.”
This is the basic reason Jesus took flesh to be among us—to offer his shoulder to all who needed his support. At each moment in life when we feel lonely, abandoned, broken and without hope, he offers his shoulders to hold us up. When we break our feathers and feel discouraged, he provides his shoulders for us to lean on until he finishes repairing our broken wings. It was while on this mission that he met a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on a Sabbath. He felt his pains and difficulties. He then decided to offer him his shoulders and make his life better.
However, the scribes and the Pharisees had a different disposition. They thought that keeping the Sabbath holy was more important than lending a brother or sister a shoulder of support. Jesus healed the man whose hand was withered on a Sabbath and, in this way, emphasized the basic tenet of Christianity, namely, being there for one another, thereby saving lives— “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6; Matt. 9:13). Life would be an unfathomable ordeal, when we cannot lean on one another. Do not deny your shoulders to those who need them or discourage those who do so!