Friday July 17, 2020

For the Pharisees the meticulous observation of all their traditions was the most important value, even higher than being merciful and sensitive to the concrete needs of others. Jesus shows them that even in the Old Testament God thought otherwise, for he desires mercy more than sacrifice. 

For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. For the Jews the Sabbath was one of their holiest institutions, so that these were strong words indeed. Yet Jesus was not afraid of uttering them, and he knew he was making a huge claim – he was claiming he was God.

An exception to Sabbath prohibitions had in fact already been made by the rabbis – allowing people who were hungry to gather grain manually from the edge of cornfields (and the disciples, followers of an itinerant Jesus, might indeed have been hungry).

There was another exception for the temple priests who, on the Sabbath, were obliged to bake (a labour !) the sabbath thanksgiving loaves. But now, Jesus says here, is “something greater than the Temple” : the temple was the dwelling-place of God with his people – Right now, however, it is Emmanuel (‘God-with-us’) who walks the earth and its cornfields (someone greater, also, than King David himself).

The sabbath was modelled on God’s rest-day after the days of Creation. It was meant more as a relief for people, than as a set of religious exactions. “God did not institute the Sabbath to add burdens to an already over-burdened humanity. The Sabbath is a moment for God’s people to pause and take time out to come to know better the God whose delight is to be with them”.

In this reading we meet Jesus as one who believes that all law must serve the law of love. He calls this his commandment and in it he highlights his love for us as what must shape the way we see ourselves and others, the way we relate with God and with all creation. The law finds its fullness in Jesus, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17).

Be with Jesus for a short while and with his essential call to believe the Good News of His love for you. This is Jesus’ call to love yourself and others as He has loved you in the many ways you have witnessed Him doing this. Is this how you live – putting love before all else?

God wants to free you from your anxieties, fears, and burdens through the gift of his unconditional mercy and love. Can you extend to others the gift of mercy and love so generously shared with you?

The Pharisees were stuck in their habit of finding fault – an easy trap for religious people to fall into. Jesus reminds them to really listen. The word of God is not given to us as an instruction manual but calls us to form our hearts. Jesus’ heart was not set on sacrifice, but on making evident God’s tender mercy.