by Fr. Tommy Lane
Corned beef and cabbage. What does that bring to mind? St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland and the Irish. Not for me. It is the not the traditional dish in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. The first time I ate corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day was my first St. Patrick’s Day in this country in 2005. Our set ways of thinking about others may not always be correct! Reality may be different to our perceptions and others’ perceptions and opinions of us may be different to our reality.
David in our first reading encountered a perception of him that was less than accurate,
Saul answered David, “You cannot go up against this Philistine and fight with him, for you are only a youth, while he has been a warrior from his youth.” (1 Sam 17:33)
But we all know how the story ended. David killed the Philistine with just a sling and a stone.
The man in the Gospel had a withered hand. Some people in the ancient world believed that your physical appearance reflected your soul. For example in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs – Jewish apocalyptic literature said to contain the dying words of Jacob’s twelve sons - in the Testament of Naphtali we read,
“For just as a potter knows the pot, and how much it holds, and brings clay for it accordingly, so also the Lord forms the body in correspondence to the spirit, and instills the spirit corresponding to the power of the body. And from one to the other there is no discrepancy, not so much as a third of a hair…”
Mikeal C. Parsons Body and Character in Luke and Acts p45
Polemo, the Greek philosopher, wrote,
“If you see that the back is broad, it is an indication of mighty and strong men, and it indicates great anger. If it is the opposite of that, it indicates weakness and the contrary of what the broad and strong back indicated.”
Mikeal C. Parsons Body and Character in Luke and Acts p86
And gaining admission into the school of Pythagoras was a little different to gaining admission into Mount St. Mary’s. Pythagoras inquired,
“…into the character and dispositions of men by an inference drawn from their facial appearance and expression, and from the form and bearing of their whole body. Then, when he had examined a man and found him suitable, he at once gave orders that he should be admitted to the school.”
Mikeal C. Parsons Body and Character in Luke and Acts p18
It was bad enough for the poor man in the Gospel to have a withered hand, but having to live with the prejudice that almost certainly engendered made it all the worse. But as with David, the story ended well. Jesus physically healed the man with the withered hand and bearing in mind the prejudices of the ancient I think it would be in order to say that Jesus healed him socially also.
What about you? We could say that there are three opinions of you. There is your self image, the way others look at you, and God’s love for you. Only one of those is the perfect way to look at you; God’s love for you. The way others look at you probably does not reflect the full reality of God’s love for you. Our self-image always falls short of God’s love for us because we do not understand fully how much God loves us. In Scripture we see who we really are. In Scripture we see God’s love for us. In Scripture we encounter the only opinion that reflects the reality of who we really are. David was not restrained by inadequate opinions of him, and the man with the withered hand was set free by Jesus. Can you allow yourself to grow and expand to become as big as the love of God for you?
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013