|Daily Gospel Reading - September 7, 2013|
1 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?" 3 And Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?" 5 And he said to them, "The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath."
Meditation: What does the commandment "keep holy the Sabbath" require of us? Or better yet, what is the primary intention behind this command? The religious leaders confronted Jesus on this issue. The "Sabbath rest" was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God's goodness and the goodness of his work, both in creation and redemption. It was a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on our behalf. It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment. Jesus' disciples are scolded by the scribes and Pharisees, not for plucking and eating corn from the fields, but for doing so on the Sabbath. In defending his disciples, Jesus argues from the scriptures that human need has precedence over ritual custom. In their hunger, David and his men ate of the holy bread offered in the Temple (1 Samuel 21:2-7). On every Sabbath morning twelves loaves were laid before God on a golden table in the Holy Place. Each loaf represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. No one was allowed to eat this bread except the priests because it represented the very presence of God. David understood that human need took precedence over rules and ritual regulations.
Why didn't the Pharisees recognize the claims of mercy over rules and regulations? Their zeal for ritual observance blinded them from the demands of charity. Jesus' reference to the bread of the Presence alludes to the true bread from heaven which he offers to all who believe in him. Jesus, the Son of David, and the Son of Man, a title for the Messiah, declares that he is "Lord of the Sabbath." Jesus healed on the Sabbath and he showed mercy to those in need. All who are burdened can find true rest and refreshment in him. Do you seek rest and refreshment in the Lord and in the celebration of the Lord's Day?
"Lord Jesus, you refresh us with your presence and you sustain us with your life-giving word. Show me how to lift the burden of others, especially those who lack the basic necessities of life, and to refresh them with humble care and service."