Dropsy (or Oedema) is a build-up of fluid in the body which causes the affected tissue to become swollen. The swelling can occur in one particular part of the body or more universally across the body. One of the causes is malnutrition (as was the lot of the poor), and another cause is standing for long periods (as a servant might do).
Perhaps our reflection might follow along the lines of these probable causes. Here at table, in the home of a prominent pharisee (and presumably a well-resourced one) all are eating. The man is either an interloper or a servant at table. There is no sign that anyone notices his condition or if they do, seeks to respond to it.
Jesus by even being there, demonstrates once more the extraordinary dimensions of his ‘boundary breaking’ ministry – he is not afraid to associate with the rich (nor afraid to challenge them ) even if, most likely, he has been invited with a less than generous spirit and the motive of his host(s) is to merely observe him and to ‘’test’ him.
The instinctive attitude and actions of Jesus inspired the response to life developed by the Belgian Cardinal Joseph Cardijn who founded the Young Christian Workers and the Young Christian Students. Cardijn promoted the response of ‘see, judge, act’ as a way of Christian action in the world.
We see its origins in Jesus himself – he notices the man, he quickly makes his own interior judgment that compassion overshadows the letter of the law in such an instance, and he acts to help and heal (even in the face of disapproval). Further, he challenges those who do defend the law as only having a literal interpretation, to justify their own actions and positions.
The meal was presumably nourishing, the actions of Jesus were life giving.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is the Provincial Superior of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.