I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.
On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" After looking around at all of them, he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Probably Jesus did not intend to stir up the quarrel in the synagogue that is reported by Mark today. But he sensed a trap by his enemies to put him in a negative light. A disabled man was being used to make Jesus look like a law-breaker, using the man's handicap to get at the volatile preacher from Nazareth. There is a common tendency to put limits on the love of God, just as narrow-minded people tried to limit Jesus' outreach and exclude individuals or whole groups from his help. But the power of Jesus cannot be bound by rigid traditions. So many facile reasons can be advanced for not doing the right thing: it's the wrong day of the week to come looking for help; fear to side with the unemployed or disabled; unable to correct a powerful, influential person, for obvious wrongdoing. And people even see reasons why God should not act generously. But following Jesus' example we should "Just Do It!"
Jesus is often portrayed as giving hope to those who are desperately in need of hope. when he came into the synagogue, he must have given hope to the man with the withered hand, in spite of the hostile presence of others. And the man's hope was not disappointed. In Luke's gospel the last words Jesus speaks to another human being are words that give hope to a condemned man crucified alongside him, "today, you will be with me in Paradise." The risen Lord remains a hopeful presence in all of our lives. In today's first reading from the letter to the Colossians, Paul refers to "Christ among you, your hope of glory." Paul is reminding us that the Lord lives among us, and that his presence among us is the foretaste of eternal glory. His presence among us here and now inspires us to hope for a fuller experience of his presence in eternity. This too is a hope that will not be disappointed. Our faith in the Lord must always be a hope-filled faith. As followers of the Lord, we are always people of hope.