The Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 12:1-8)
At that time 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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me a heart like your own, a heart that worships you in all I am and do. Transform my heart so that I will seek to offer others what they truly need from you—mercy and love.
Encountering Christ: In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking with his disciples as they were walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath. The disciples were hungry, and without thinking, they began to pick and then eat the grain. There were several Pharisees who saw the disciples do this. They immediately approached Jesus and told him that his disciples’ action was unlawful. After all, it was the Sabbath! No work was to be done on the Sabbath…..Talk about the “letter of the law!”. In addition, by law, they were eating grain that they did not have the right to eat!
Jesus replied to their question by using the example of David from the Old Testament. After all, when David and his companions were hungry, they brazenly went into the house of God and ate the bread offering that only the priests were allowed to eat. Jesus asked them: “Did they consider David’s act unlawful?” At times, even some of the priests of the temple had violated the Sabbath! Did they consider these priests innocent? Jesus then says to them: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
In the time of Jesus, farmers were encouraged to leave some wheat on the edge of the field for the poor to eat. Thus, Jesus and the disciples were not stealing grain from the farmers. Mercy is a great gift. It is a gift when we receive mercy from Jesus but also when we are gifted with mercy from another person. Do you remember a time in your life when someone was merciful or compassionate with you? They may have been kind and understanding even when you did not “deserve” it.
Jesus always encourages us to do what is loving and sensible. Yes, law is important. However, if we are not careful, we can make the law our god. And this is not the God that Jesus wants us to worship! True, we do need laws. However, the “law of love” always reigns supreme! Today, may we let the “law of love” reign in our lives!
Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, I desire a heart of mercy like yours, as you continue to have mercy for me and the whole world. Transform my vision to see your commands as a means of mercy to keep me faithful to you. Transform my heart so I may see the hunger and thirst for you that is present in those who stray from your path. Let me not judge, nor demand without seeking to offer mercy and charity.
Action for the Day: Lord, today by your grace I will be attentive to my thoughts and my affections, and how they may be judgmental towards others. I will ask for a merciful heart.