“The bruised reed He will not crush.”

The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 12:20

St. Matthew quotes the above passage, from the prophet Isaiah, with reference to Jesus’ ministry of compassion and hope for all people. He wanted his Jewish readers to know that Jesus’ new way fulfilled what Isaiah said in the Old Testament.

The Pharisees were making plans to kill Jesus because His new message made them very uncomfortable, and they didn’t want to reform their lives. Thus, Jesus challenged their narrow interpretation of the law with respect to the Sabbath; the woman caught in adultery; the temple tax; the Samaritans; one’s neighbor; and many other parts of the Old Testament.

Resistance to change is, perhaps, the greatest obstacle to reform. This is made very clear in the case of the Pharisees who were opposed to reform; to changing their ways. It is also a problem that continues to challenge us today; it never goes away.

The gospel advocates reform from within; it calls for a change of heart that finds fulfillment in humble service. Jesus is the model of the humble service that Isaiah speaks of in today’s gospel: “not arguing or shouting or making loud speeches in the streets.” He is the model of compassion that the prophet Hosea speaks of by showing the superiority of mercy over sacrifice: “it is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.”

In his dealings with those who were bruised by sin, like the prodigal son or the woman caught in adultery, He did not crush them. Rather, He raised them up. Neither did He condemn those who were weak such as St. Peter who denied Him three times. Like a “smoldering wick” which He refused to quench, He rescued Peter. He empowered the weak people of this world to be “the light of the world.”

The message of Jesus, as Isaiah prophesied, is an inclusive message; it is a message in which “the Gentiles will find hope.” How often people fail to see that the Christian message is for everyone; that it is not to be confined to a particular person, a particular church or denomination? Jesus asks us to follow him. He does not ask us to shut other people out by creating our own closed society. That is what the Pharisees did, and that’s why they did not reform their lives.

Pray that you do not shut the door on the great unwashed of the world who also need the mercy and compassion of Christ.

Fr. Hugh Duffy

3 Responses to ““The bruised reed He will not crush.””

  1. James E. Egolf says:

    Readers may be interested in knowing that the Bible is bascially a Catholic book. Early bibles or extracts were called codices (codex as singular) which meant they were bound books. Codes Vaticanus (c. 400 AD) is obvously located in the Vatican. Codes Sinaiticus (c. 450 AD) was located in the Sinai Desert. The first Bible to have the Gospels in Western order was Codex Washingtonesis (c. 500 AD ) which was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt (1797-1877) and is housed in Wasthington, DC.

    Pope Damasus (366-384) commissioned St. Jerome (346-420 AD) to translate the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek sources into the Latin Vulgate Bible which was the standard for Catholics for over a thousand years. The Council of Carthage (393 AD), the Council of Hippo (397 AD), and again the Council Carthage (419 AD) repeatedly approved St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible.

    The fact that the Catholic Church which means the Universal Church has extended considerable influence even among non-Catholics. I went to a Catholic university for graduate school, and the Catholic and Protestant biblical scholars were mostly in agreement on the above comment. They learned from each other, and I first became interested in the Bible and biblical history at a Catholic university. One of the best professors I had at that Catholic university was once an ordained Presbyterian pastor, and he was an excellent teacher.

    The above statements are in response to Linda Divino’s comment which is good and may be in line with her thinking. I enjoy reading her comments and wish her well.

    Vaya Con Dios

  2. Linda Davino says:

    Thank You for the idea that the christian message is not confined to a particular person, church, or denomination. To be a Christian is to be a Christ follower not a church follower. I was baptized Catholic went to Catholic school my whole life, but I did not know Jesus Christ. I left the church and went on a search for God it took many years but God heard my pleas and answered me. I have found a nondenominal church but more importantly I have found my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and love Him with all my heart. Some Catholics have claimed I am going to hell because I have left ” the Church”, but my Lord says I am the truth, the way and the life, anyone who believes (follows, loves, obeys) in Me shall have eternal life. I think I choose to believe the One who has authority in this rather than the judgemental who believe they have a better way than Christ.

  3. James E. Egolf says:

    I am amused at the holier-than-thou types who preach hatred and exclusiveness. The bona fide Christians are condemned and marginalized. However, these kind people ignore such criticism and do Christ’s work. The holier-than-thou types betray their ignorance of Christ’s teaching while the kind people preach the Gospel. One wonders how anyone could call themselves a Christian while hating and attempting to demonize anyone who is born elsewhere, speaks a different language, etc. Christ and the Apostles spoke a different language (Aramaic and Hebrew) and dwelt among the poor and “sinners.”

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