Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Molly CahillSeptember 02, 2022
Photo from iStock.

A Reflection for Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

“Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” (Lk 6:2)

I am a superb rule follower, almost to a fault.

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I lean on structure, believing that following a path clearly set out before me will keep me from getting into trouble or upsetting the people around me.

A lot of people believe that religion, and Catholicism in its own particular way, is all about rules. Since that charge isn’t usually much of a compliment, today’s Gospel has some good news for those who feel stifled by the strict regulations of organized religion. For those of who find comfort and safety in a rulebook, though, Jesus is offering the gentle challenge we need.

In the Gospel, Jesus and his disciples attract attention because they are picking grain to eat; in the process, they’re breaking the rules for observing the sabbath. When some Pharisees press them on the matter, Jesus’ response is rich and nuanced.

“Have you not read what David did

when he and those who were with him were hungry?

How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering,

which only the priests could lawfully eat,

ate of it, and shared it with his companions?”

Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

A simplistic reading of this statement could look like Jesus is saying we can forget about the old rules. But it’s much more than that.

For those of who find comfort and safety in a rulebook, Jesus is offering the gentle challenge we need.

First of all, Jesus himself is not forgetting about the law, the Jewish tradition he and his disciples have been steeped in all their lives. The first point out of his mouth is a recollection of King David, calling upon David’s example. David, like Jesus, is less concerned with the strict letter of the law than he is with its spirit. While the bread of offering was traditionally only eaten by the priests, David is motivated by a clear-eyed approach to human need. He and his companions are hungry and in need. Therefore, they should be able to eat. Their neediness trumps any long-held strictures. The approach is strikingly straightforward.

Finally, Jesus declares himself “lord of the Sabbath.” What he says about the sabbath and how it ought to be observed is what matters; he is the authority now.

While Jesus is certainly lightening up on an ancient interpretation of the law here, he’s not abandoning it; he’s developing it. Those of us who lean on the rules for our own protection and peace of mind are being challenged by this Gospel to prioritize the human needs of our neighbors instead. The good news, though, is that we’re not being thrown to the wolves without any guidelines.

There is a new rule to follow, a new law to light the way. But it’s not one written down on an ancient scroll. It’s a person, the person of Christ.

More: Scripture

The latest from america

Statue of the Blessed Mother with her hands outstretched.
A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, by Heather Trotta
Heather TrottaMarch 25, 2023
president donald trump speaks at a podium in front of televised american flag
Former Missouri senator John Danforth said he has revisited his 1999 report since learning about the Trump rally in Waco and noticed similarities between the rhetoric of Mr. Trump and the conspiracy theorists of the 1990s.
Christopher ParkerMarch 24, 2023
Several honduran women hold a large red sign calling for justice for Ana Lizeth Hernández
The protest was organized by women’s advocates and the family, friends and neighbors of Ana Lizeth Hernández, a 33-year-old woman who died of a gunshot wound to the head in her home on March 19.
Kevin ClarkeMarch 24, 2023
A Catholic priest and a man demonstrate the sacrament of confession
Archbishop Listecki said “the false assertions of Father James Connell have caused understandable and widespread unrest among the People of God, causing them to question if the privacy of the confessional can now be violated.”