One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?
He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton describes an incident where during a sermon on desegregation, a parishioner abruptly got up to leave, shouting to the priest “if I miss Mass today, it’s your fault!” This is a drastic example of the theme in today’s Gospel: that it’s easy to get so caught up in attachments or rules that we can forget what’s really important.
Jesus knows all about Sabbath regulations, but he also knows his friends are hungry. So he chooses to help the disciples and also use that opportunity to teach the Pharisees. On some days we’re the confused disciples and on others we’re the rigid Pharisees. Yet despite our imperfections, Jesus still lovingly guides us all. This love for us is not because of Mass attendance (or any other religious observance), but because he loved us before we loved him.
A Question: Can I let go of some burden, rule, or attachment I’m holding on to that Jesus has not asked of me?
—Henoch Derbew, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic of the US Northeast province, is currrently studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesus so much in love with me?
Not for heaven’s sake, not to be
Out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and will love thee.
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.
—An excerpt from a prayer of St. Francis Xavier, S.J.,
translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.