Hezekiah’s prayer to live longer is the theme of the first two readings; both are from chapter 38 of Isaiah. Hezekiah reigned from 720-692 B.C. and was one of the best kings of Judah (southern kingdom). His father Ahaz had introduced false worship even in the Temple area, but Hezekiah purified the house of God and put God at the center of his reign. He was truly a messianic figure of righteousness and political wisdom. Isaiah helped him through his difficulties and no doubt was instrumental in inspiring him to pray to God for healing and a longer life. God’s mercy shines through the readings for he is given fifteen more years and does bring back the true monotheistic religion back to the kingdom. God is King; Hezekiah is his servant and Isaiah the prophet is his friend and advisor.
Here are some of the prayers we hear from Hezekiah: “You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die. Those live whom the Lord protects; yours is the lifeof my spirit. You have given me health and life.”
Jesus argues in favor of his disciples calling to mind an incident in the life of David during a military campaign. His men were hungry and needed food. David allowed them to take the sacred breads of the Temple for nourishment. If the King could do this, then, too the disciples should be able to eat the kernels of wheat taken from the field on a Sabbath.
The Sabbath was made for the benefit of humans and Jesus is affirming he is Lord even of the Sabbath. Common sense prevails in this argumentation as well as a concern for those who are hungry on the Lord’s Day. The final word of Jesus on this occasion is what brings the two readings together for us: “It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.”
I remember being told by a holy spiritual director that when I am struggling with doubts about something it is best to reason it out and follow what common sense would dictate. That was good advice and it helped me to make some good decisions in my life. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.