In our gospel today we have a conundrum. They are all hungry, so they pick some grain and eat it. That sounds pretty straight forward, except that it’s the Sabbath, and picking grain sounds suspiciously like harvesting, and that’s work, which is forbidden on the Sabbath. I’m sort of curious about the logistics of all this. Apparently people could eat on the Sabbath, but couldn’t do any work. What about the women cooking the meal? Could they do that? Could you eat as long as you didn’t do work for the meal on that day?
Jesus shows historical precedent – David and his men were hungry and they ate the blessed bread that only the priests were allowed. Because they were hungry, the violation of that law was allowed. Human need takes precedent over the law. And what about priests? They work on the Sabbath and they are not judged guilty by it. This is because their duty to the temple is more important than this law. And of course, Jesus, as God, is more important than the temple or the regulations.
This is the precursor to the stuff about healing on the Sabbath. It’s the same idea. What constitutes work? Jesus says a little later that anyone, should his animal wander off or fall in a hole, that man would go retrieve his lamb. Even if it were on the Sabbath he wouldn’t let his animal die. And aren’t people more important than animals? Should Jesus let someone die just because it’s the Sabbath? Should He let someone be lost to heaven just because it’s Sabbath and He shouldn’t work? Emergency workers can’t take the time off just because it’s Sabbath. Sick or injured people can’t wait until next week for care.
Today is also the feast day of St. Bonaventure who reformed the regulations for the friars. There was one faction who wanted a strict adherence to the laws, and other faction wanting reform. He had to walk a fine line, making the changes necessary without upsetting the people who thought they should be following the rules. In our gospel Jesus shows that there are sometimes reasons for breaking the rules. Life is more important than following the rules. Salvation is more important than following the rules.
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