Daily Reflection
September 6th, 2003
Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Chaplain, Creighton University Medical Center 
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Colossians 1:21-23
Psalm 54:3-4, 6, 8
Luke 6:1-5

Today’s gospel scene brings back old childhood memories of my dad, my brother and myself walking alongside fields of still green wheat and picking some ears to eat the soft milky grains.  No one ever accused us of stealing.  After all, what is a few ears in a whole field of wheat?  As a matter of fact stealing was not the point of the Pharisees’ reproach either.  Their point was the (to them) unacceptable objective violation of an established religious norm of behavior —or, at least, of their interpretation of that norm.

That is precisely what Jesus rejects: the absolutizing of norms regardless of context, of proportion or of human need; the placing of norms above people.  And he reminds them of one case in their own respected tradition, where David, a lay person, acted in objective violation of a clear religious norm by unlawfully eating of the bread reserved for priests —David, “a man after God’s own heart.”[1Sam. 13:14]

When we absolutize norms, we do not feel we have any need to make allowances for special circumstances: upbringing, personal acumen, sickness, need, emergencies... Absolutizing tricks us into feeling excused from using compassion, understanding, even common sense (arguably the least common of senses.)  We need to remain aware that, in Jesus’ mind, the Sabbath and other religious norms are for people and not vice versa. [Mk. 2:27].  I am convinced that we could diffuse much of the current internal tensions in the Church, if we had the attitude Jesus displays in today’s gospel scene toward religious norms or guidelines. If we can learn vicariously from historically recent situations, the rigid literalism of the Taliban leaders might offer us some pause for reflection.

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