July 19, 2019 – Friday 15th Week in Ordinary Time
From the Gospel of 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.”
Jesus seemed to be a person that continually scandalized people. He particularly scandalized those who were in the leadership, those who were higher in status in the society. These were the likes of the Pharisees who claimed expertise of the Law of Moses and righteousness for observing every single law.
This time our Gospel tells on how the Pharisees confronted Jesus for allowing his disciples to pick on the heads of the grain and eat them on a Sabbath day. The Sabbath was considered to be holy by the Jews. Its holiness shall be overserved by not doing any work as God also rested on the Sabbath after the creation.
Yet, such tradition prevent people from doing anything and even from doing what would be life-giving. A healer was forbidden to heal a sick person as a hungry man was not also allowed do to anything to ease his hunger. The Pharisees complained with this very small thing just to discredit Jesus. Their complain was not out of concern but out of bitterness and malice. They were observing and criticizing Jesus even with trivial things.
We might also find ourselves in this situation when we also become a person who complains a lot and tends to only see what is wrong and ugly in everything and everyone. We surely are just filled with malice, bitterness and insecurity like the Pharisees.
Jesus confronted the Pharisees and wanted them to realize that God would not condemn us for doing what is not contrary to God’s desire. God desires to give life to us. That is why, Jesus declared, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Thus, if our sacrifice does not give life to others but rather prevent what is life-giving, then, this is not a true sacrifice. God would rather love us to show mercy to others because that will surely give life to those who are in need.
This will also be clear to us once we become aware on what kind of “temple” we worship. The Pharisees merely worship the “letter of the law,” which become their temple. They even worship their own status in the Jewish society which became the reason of their self-righteousness. This too became their own temple which made them condemning.
Jesus confronted and once again scandalized the Pharisees by telling them that “there is something greater than the temple here.” Jesus is certainly greater that the Temple of Jerusalem and even greater than the temples that the Pharisees worship. Jesus is the new focus of God’s presence.
This reveals to us that God walks with us and is among us. God is not limited within the walls of a temple or of a church, but God is a person. This is what Jesus means. Our relationship with God is therefore not limited with a structure or a system but founded on a person.
Jesus invites us today to make our relationship with God, and thus, our faith in Him grounded on the person of Jesus. And Jesus reminds us to discern and see always if our actions and words are life-giving or not. If it gives life, then, it is a true expression of our faith. However, if it prevents life and even suppresses what is life-giving to others, then, our actions and words do not come from the Lord.
Hopefully, by making ourselves more aware of this and our faith deeply grounded in Jesus, we may become persons who gives and brings life to others. Hinuat pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR