Friday, July 17 ~ Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Holy Gospel: 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.”
Meditation: What does the commandment “keep holy the Sabbath” require of us? What is the primary intention behind this command? The religious leaders of the time confronted Jesus on this issue. The “Sabbath rest” was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God’s goodness and the goodness of his work, both in creation and redemption. It was a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on our behalf. It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment. Jesus’ disciples are scolded by the scribes and Pharisees, not for plucking and eating corn from the fields, but for doing so on the Sabbath. In defending his disciples, Jesus argues from the scriptures that human need has precedence over ritual custom. In their hunger, David and his men ate of the holy bread offered in the Temple. Jesus also quoted of the Sabbath work involved in worship in the Temple. This kind of work was usually double the work of worship on weekdays. Jesus then quotes from the prophet Hosea (6:6): I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. While the claims of ritual sacrifice are important to God, mercy and kindness in response to human need are even more important.
Prayer: O God, who show the light of your truth to those who go astray, so that they may return to the right path, give all who for the faith they profess are accounted Christians the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ and to strive after all that does it honor. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: What a difference Sunday makes when it truly is a day of rest, a day to stop our labors and other unnecessary “busy-ness.” For centuries, Christian citizens have sought recognition in their respective nations of Sunday as a legal holiday, a day of rest from labor. This has been done, in part, by a concern for the rights of workers and their need for leisure. The Church lifts up the value of human work, seeing in it an imitation of God in His work of creation. At the same time, she insists on the need and the right to rest and on the right to have time for family and for worship. In our present age, a new social phenomenon has emerged: the weekend, which has altered the very character of Sunday. The weekend’s impact on society has not been bad in all aspects, for it has brought opportunities for cultural and social events that, to some extent, can meet our human need for rest. But all too often our Sunday gets lost in the weekend. It gets left out of the planned activities or gets tucked in almost as an afterthought. In regard to this problem, Pope John Paul II once wrote: “Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a ‘weekend,’ it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see ‘the heavens.’ Hence, though ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of doing so.” When Sunday is forgotten, and we are left only with a weekend, events become strictly entertaining or just an extension of work. How do you spend your Sundays? Is it a day of worship and thanksgiving to God by first attending Mass? A day of rest? Or just another day of the week?
Scripture passages (NAB translation) courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops;
prayers are from The Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing, 2011;
information about saints, solemnities, feasts and memorials courtesy of Catholic Culture.