Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
September 5, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel finds the Pharisees once again confronting Jesus with a dilemma. It is the Sabbath, a day when any kind of “work” is prohibited. Yet, a man with a withered hand approaches Jesus needing to be cured. Should Jesus do this work?
It is the classic, Pharisaical confrontation: appearing to weigh two equal responses which in reality are incomparable – like apples and oranges. They are similar only on the surface. Their essences are quite distinct.
Jesus’ continuing debate with the Pharisees always swirls around the balance between law and spirit. The Pharisees have idolized the Law, allowing it to swallow the Spirit. Under their intransigent interpretation, the poor crippled man in today’s Gospel would have lost the chance for healing.
We call quandaries like this being “between a rock and a hard place”. The ancient Greeks called it “between Scylla and Charybdis” – an adjacent huge rock and whirlpool which threatened to swallow their ships passing through. The image powerfully captures the angst accompanying these dilemmas.
We navigate such hazards throughout our lives, facing choices which are often unclear and confusing. Our alternatives sail the wide range between “law” and “spirit”, between what seems advantageous and what seems right, between what is comfortable and what is spiritually challenging, between what is “legal” and what is just and merciful.
How do we choose according to the pattern of Christ? How do we choose forgiveness, mercy, inclusive love, peace and charity in a world that screams “Choose selfishly. You deserve it!”
Through prayer, scriptural reflection, and merciful service, our spirits absorb that Sacred Pattern of Christ. It is in the shape of the Cross. It will guide us between our Scylla and Charybdis.
Poetry: Scylla and Charybdis – from The Aeneid by Virgil
BUT when near the coasts Of Sicily, Pelorus’ narrow straits Open to view, then take the land to the left, And the left sea, with a wide circuit round, And shun the shore and sea upon the right. 5 Those lands, ’t is said, by vast convulsions once Were torn asunder (such the changes wrought By time), when both united stood as one. Between them rushed the sea, and with its waves Cut off the Italian side from Sicily, 10 And now between their fields and cities flows With narrow tide. There Scylla guards the right, Charybdis the implacable the left; And thrice its whirlpool sucks the vast waves down Into the lowest depths of its abyss, 15 And spouts them forth into the air again, Lashing the stars with waves. But Scylla lurks Within the blind recesses of a cave, Stretching her open jaws, and dragging down The ships upon the rocks. Foremost, a face, 20 Human, with comely virgin’s breast, she seems, E’en to the middle; but her lower parts A hideous monster of the sea, the tails Of dolphins mingling with the womb of wolves. Better to voyage, though delaying long, 25 Around Pachyna’s cape, with circuit wide, Than once the shapeless Scylla to behold Under her caverns vast, and hear those rocks Resounding with her dark blue ocean hounds.
Today’s song is simple, almost childlike – but that simplicity is often just what we need in the face of a dilemma.
Music: I Choose You – Libby Allen Songs