July 18, 2008
Friday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Matthew 12: 1-8
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you; I know that you are present here and everywhere and are always looking out for me and guiding me. I trust and hope in you, because I know you will never lead me astray, if only I listen to you and obey you. I love you for being so good and patient with me, and I desire to live each day more faithful to you.
Petition: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours!
1. Walking with the Lord The context of this passage merits some reflection. Jesus was walking through a field of grain with his disciples – perhaps they were taking a shortcut on the way to the synagogue, since they could only walk a limited distance on the Sabbath day. They had the gift of a familiar and almost casual relationship with the Son of God. The disciples were at ease and unconcerned, feeling secure at the side of the omniscient and omnipotent Lord. That personal time with Jesus must have been very important for them; learning from Jesus’ example gave them confidence later as they traveled far and wide when Jesus was no longer visibly present after the Ascension. Yet Jesus is still present with us, even if not visibly. He dwells within us through sanctifying grace. We have but to raise our mind and heart to him in prayer. How much that would change the way we feel if only we were to remember it more often!
2. A Problem of Priorities This idyllic moment is disturbed by the Pharisees, who must also have been nearby – perhaps going to the same synagogue to pray. They scrutinize every move that Jesus and his followers make, and they are quick to criticize them for “working” on the Sabbath by picking the heads of grain. This could hardly be considered a major breach of the Law, but they are obsessed with the tiniest formalities of the Law, while missing the spirit of it completely. If we find ourselves being overly perfectionist and critical of others on formal details, it can be a sign that we are trying to make ourselves look good and compensate for our own more profound deficiencies. While there are certainly many non-negotiable aspects of faith and morality, we need to remember that love and mercy and the salvation of souls come before the external formalities.
3. Unconstructive Criticism Another sign of the Pharisees’ lack of purity of intention here is the fact that when they think they see a fault in others, they do not seek to instruct and guide, but only criticize and accuse. Instead of calling Jesus or his disciples aside to try to explain the way they understand the Law, they fire off their judgment with rude bitterness. Christ, on the contrary, responds patiently with an objective argument and justification of the disciples’ behavior. He does not allow himself to be pulled into a confrontation on this occasion, but tries to open their eyes and hearts. He will later take a more confrontational tone when his gentler efforts are rejected, and when it is needed to try to save the onlookers from falling into the trap of the Pharisees. Jesus, meek and humble of heart, always and only seeks to help and save the lost.
Dialogue with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for your presence in my life, and help me to be more aware of your companionship throughout each day! I want to be more like you, meek and humble of heart, as well as just and willing to stand up for the truth. Transform me with the power of your grace!
Resolution: Today I will make a special effort to be more aware of Jesus’ presence in my life, and not to judge others harshly.
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