Lent is like a long 'retreat' during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual 'combat' which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism.
Pope Benedict XVI
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 2: 18-28; focused on 2.23-28
One Sabbath, Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some of the heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing that which is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Questions and Answers
In this passage of scripture as in many others, the religious leaders of the time questioned Jesus about his behavior and that of his followers. But their questions didn’t originate from a sincere desire to learn and to understand; rather, the Pharisees sought to condemn Jesus for what they saw as a flagrant disregard for religious law. Their underlying motive was to entrap Jesus in order portray him as both a threat to religious community and a danger to the civil peace. Their ultimate goal was to turn the people and the governmental authorities against him; an aim in which they eventually succeeded.
Jesus’ answer is interesting for several reasons. First, by citing a precedent set by King David, it revealed his authoritative knowledge of the religious history of his people. Secondly, it emphasized God’s intent in establishing the Sabbath as a rest from labor and not as a legalistic set of rules against which to judge people. His explanation was entirely in line with God’s commandment as recorded in Exodus 20:8; “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work.” Picking a few heads of grain in order to have something to eat did not constitute a breach of Sabbath law; his disciples were not farmers harvesting on the Sabbath in order to increase their income by getting ahead of their competition.
It is interesting to me that the Pharisees of two thousand years ago have much in common with those of us who live in the present day. Like them, we are sometimes entirely too interested in (and critical of) the doings of our brothers and sisters. All too often, we fail to examine and to acknowledge the motivations of our own hearts. And when we bring our questions to God, do we do so without an agenda and with a genuine willingness to learn?
My prayer today would be that we consciously strive to put aside our own ideas about the way things “should” be. Instead, may we seek to know God’s heart, for only then will we understand more clearly the lessons that he wants to teach.
Jesus, may we come to you to know you better - and not just to seek our own agenda and will. Help us to know your heart so that our own hearts can be transformed by you.